Officials with UMass Boston will stop allowing State Police to use campus parking lots as a staging area for protests and other events. The announcement followed criticism from the school community and activists.
"I would like to thank everyone involved, including President Marty Meehan, for their empathy with members of our majority-minority campus who felt unheard, offended, or frightened by the presence on campus of state police," interim Chancellor Katherine Newman wrote to the school's faculty, staff and students.
"Nonetheless, for people who have historically, systematically, and even routinely been victims of police misconduct, the presence of such an intimidating display of police power is unnerving," Newman wrote. "For that reason, it can also serve as an implied deterrent to the right to protest that is a foundation on which the nation was built."
Officials with UMass Boston did not respond to a request for an interview.
The campus has had a long-standing practice of allowing law enforcement to use parking areas to prepare for events like the Boston Marathon and victory parades.
Recent trainings, however, have gotten some attention. Petitions opposing the police presence were created, demanding information and accountability.
"The Bayside parking lot has been an enormous source of revenue for the university, especially after the decision to impose price increases and even more so after leasing it to developers," states the petition on Change.org. "Despite petitions and protests, the university, a commuter school and Boston’s only public university, made the decision to make parking unaffordable on campus. Now we are demanding answers for the militarizing of our campus, a deliberate act of violence against the Black, POC and undocumented students, faculty and staff of the UMass Boston community."
As of Saturday, over 1,300 signatures on the petition had been gathered.
A coalition of students at UMass Boston are planning a march Saturday night on the campus center lawn.
This [police] presence was not in response to any campus conditions and is not part of any long-term plan. We strongly support our students, faculty, and staff’s First Amendment right to free speech and the right to peacefully assemble.UMass Boston Police Chief Donald Baynard
UMass Boston is also starting a Police Community Advisory Board of students, faculty and staff.
"The increased presence of police on our campus was not intended to sow fear in our community," UMass Boston Police Chief Donald Baynard wrote to the campus community. "This presence was not in response to any campus conditions and is not part of any long-term plan. We strongly support our students, faculty, and staff’s First Amendment right to free speech and the right to peacefully assemble."
State Police did not return a request for comment. However, the State Police Association of Massachusetts — the union representing troopers and sergeants — said UMass Boston's decision to stop allowing police to use campus parking lots was "shameful" and "overtly pander to the false rhetoric and anti-police agenda of the few."
"Our members have been spat on, hit and have had bodily fluids thrown at them," the statement said." Some have gone to the hospital."
The statement said the State Police union condemns the abuse of power by law enforcement officers.