Charges Not Filed For Past Protests

Although the student members of an environmental action group who camped out in Boston Common last fall will not face charges, it is likely they may be arrested for future protests, one of which they have already planned for this spring.

Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Gerald Stewart recently offered a one-time deal to drop all criminal charges and issue a $50 fine for each infraction, according to joint Law School and Kennedy School student Craig S. Altemose, the founder of Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), which coordinated the sleep-outs last fall. The Boston police had issued trespassing citations at five different sleep-out protests last fall, where SJSF members pushed for the Massachusetts State Legislature to introduce a bill for 100 percent clean energy by 2020.

But the District Attorney’s office has stressed that the deal to not charge SJSF members will not hold if they break Boston Common’s 11 p.m. curfew again, according to Jeffrey M. Feuer, who is coordinating the pro bono legal support for the group through the National Lawyers Guild.

“If we do it again, the penalties will likely increase, and we are planning on doing it again,” Altemose said.

“We’re recommending that everyone takes the deal,” he explained. “There will be plenty of opportunities later on to get misdemeanors on our records.”


Though the legal and academic repercussions are still unclear for future protests, SJSF representatives said they are committed to continuing the sleep-outs this spring. In their push for the state legislature’s passage of the clean energy bill, SJSF members have planned a final sleep-out in Boston Common the night before Earth Day in April.

Group members said they are worried there may be academic repercussions at Harvard if they are arrested off campus at a climate change protest.

In a recent interview, Secretary of the Administrative Board John “Jay” L. Ellison did not eliminate the possibility of Ad Board hearings if SJSF members are arrested.

“We would never go after a student for protesting,” Ellison said. “But if it’s illegal protesting...that’s different.”

He stressed that there is no blanket policy requiring an Ad Board hearing after a student is arrested but added that the College does review off-campus arrests.

Ellison met with an SJSF representative last fall to discuss the College’s policies and encouraged them to keep their protests within legal bounds.

The dropped charges and fines will not lead to any marks on students’ permanent records, so the College will not take action on previous sleep-outs, according to SJSF member John E. Beatty ‘11.

Nonetheless, SJSF member Jonathan M.L. Rosenthal ’13 said he is concerned that an off-campus arrest may lead to an Ad Board hearing and potential suspension.

“I like to think that nonviolent peaceful protest wouldn’t be frowned upon, but nobody knows what the Ad Board is going to do,” Beatty said.

Seventeen Harvard students stood before the Boston Municipal Court this week to answer a summons for trespassing on Boston Common, where they were told that they would not be charged. Overall, 176 SJSF members either are going or have gone to court for one to five citations each, according to Altemose.

—Crimson staff writer Eric P. Newcomer contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at

This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification:

CLARIFICATION: February 8, 2010

An original version of the Feb. 8 news article "Charges Not Filed For Past Protests" stated that the Suffolk County District Attorney's office recently offered a one-time deal to drop all criminal charges and issue a $50 fine for each infraction. To clarify, Assistant District Attorney Gerald Stewart—who is in the Suffolk County D.A.'s office—offered the deal.


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