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At Wellesley, arrest over chalk writing leaves a mark
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2006 20:32:10 -0400
Begin forwarded message:
From: EEkid () aol com
Date: April 30, 2006 8:13:00 PM EDT
To: dave () farber net
Subject: At Wellesley, arrest over chalk writing leaves a mark
At Wellesley, arrest over chalk writing leaves a mark Police reaction
to peace signs is questioned
By Alison Lobron, Globe Correspondent | April 30, 2006
Wellesley College senior Hadley Smith began the night of April 12
with her hands full of rainbow-colored chalk and ended it in the town
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As part of the Wellesley College Peace Coalition, Smith, 22, and
other students spent the early evening scrawling onto the town
center's sidewalks peace signs and quotations from Mohandas K. Gandhi.
Someone followed them back to their dormitory, copied down the
license plate number of the car Smith was driving, and contacted
Wellesley police, according to the police report.
That led to an evening in jail for Smith and her fellow students, an
experience that has led to misgivings on the campus of 2,300 students
about the way police handled the incident. A spokesman for Wellesley
police said the students were not mistreated.
Smith, a senior history major, said she was back in her dormitory
room the night of April 12 when she got a call on her cellphone about
the chalk from a detective on the town police force.
''He said I better get back there and that the faster I did that, the
better off we would be," Smith said.
Smith, of Rochester, N.H., along with students Justine Parker, 21, of
Chicago, and Kate Recchia, 20, of New Haven, returned to the town
center, where they were met by Detective Peter McLaughlin.
According to Smith, McLaughlin gave the women a choice between arrest
and cleaning up the chalk. Smith says when they asked for
clarification of their offense ''he said it was not up for
discussion. We told him, 'We're going to clean it, but we're trying
to understand why we'd be arrested.' And he was like, 'Nope, you've
lost your chance.' "
McLaughlin did not return phone calls. But Marie Cleary, public
information officer for the Wellesley police, said the women were
informed by police why their actions were illegal. They were charged
with ''defacement and tagging public property."
''I'm not sure which of the young women disagreed and began to debate
the issue," said Cleary. ''But at that point, the officer determined
that he would place them in custody."
The next morning, after several hours in a holding cell before being
released on $40 bail -- a friend bailed them out -- the three women
were arraigned in Dedham District Court. In exchange for three months
probation, 12 hours of community service, and a $63 fine, all three
will have their records expunged.
Parker, a junior who is president of the campus Peace Coalition, said
word of the students' encounter with police traveled fast. Soon
after, college officials held an open meeting for students and
faculty to discuss the incident. Janis Vogel, 21, a Wellesley senior
who said she was troubled by the arrest, estimated that about 30
students and professors attended.
''That's big for the kind of crowd you usually get at Wellesley," she
said. ''A lot of professors expressed their concern."
With a month to go until she graduates, Smith said the incident was
an intimidating introduction to a criminal justice system she had
previously experienced only through books.
Smith said that students are able to write messages in chalk on their
campus and that she didn't think their sidewalk writing was against
the law. She says she now understands that chalking is illegal.
Parker said college administrators suggested that students start up a
dialogue with local police, but she has not followed up on the idea
and has encouraged angry students to put their energies toward peace
''Our encounter with them demonstrated that they're not interested in
dialogue," she said. ''I'm not giving up on them, but it was a very
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- At Wellesley, arrest over chalk writing leaves a mark David Farber (May 01)