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Tony Menelik Van der Meer

Tony Van der Meer is a professor of Africana Studies at UMass Boston who has long maintained an interest in AfroCuban culture.

A friend of Eugene Godfried, he wrote the following pieces on him:

 - Tony Menelik Van Der Meer on Eugene Godfried, 3/30/09

 - Final Rites Of Passage: Eugene Godfried, 4/11/09

Prof Van der Meer recently wrote this piece for the Washington Post

My 12-year-old brother’s death was used to sell the ‘war on drugs.’ It’s time for Biden to end it.  8/30/2021 Washington Post:

Ifa and Orisa Practices - Thurday, May 9, 2013  @6pm - Dudley Public Library, 65 Warren St. Roxbury, MA

A Lecture by Professor Tony Menelik Van Der Meer:  this presentation will look at the origins of Yoruba spiritual practices in Africa and its development in the Americas. The main focus will be on the practice of Ifa, Orisa, and Ancestor worship in Cuba and the United States.

Knowledge is Empowerment is a series of monthly presentations and discussions, led by faculty and guest lecturers from the Africana Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Students Protest Arrest of Local Professor, Weekly Dig, 4/9/03


UMass-Boston professor arrested supporting students anti-war actions, Refuse & Resist, 4/3/03 


My 12-year-old brother’s death was used to sell the ‘war on drugs.’ It’s time for Biden to end it.  8/30/2021 Washington Post: by Tony Van Der Meer - "Now, the Biden administration has a historic opportunity to end the “war on drugs.” Its Statement of Drug Policy Priorities embraces a public health framing of the drug crisis, centers racial equity and underscores the importance of harm-reduction programs. But more must be done. President Biden should create a pathway for opening overdose prevention centers, where people can consume pre-purchased drugs more safely, with sterile equipment, in a medically supervised environment."

Campus police assaults Africana Studies professor at U Mass Boston over military recruitment, professor being charged  5/18/2003 AfroCubaWeb: "Professor Van der Meer of UMass Boston's Africana Studies Department was viciously assaulted on 4/3/03 by campus police after intervening when a Massachusetts National Guard recruiter was shouting death threats to his students: "I hope you get shot in the head like Martin Luther King! I hope you all get shot in the head!" The UMass President, William M. Bulger, and Chancellor, Jo Ann M. Gora, have so far declined to try and get the charges dropped. Professor Van der Meer is scheduled to be arraigned at 8:30 AM in Dorchester District Court on 5/28/03."

Tensions High After UMB Professor's Arrest  5/7/2003 Dorchester Reporter, MA: originally posted 4/10/03, Professor Van der Meer's first court date is 5/28 - "Van Der Meer, an advisor to the Black Student Center and member of the Africana Studies department, arrived on the scene to defend his students' right to distribute information. Visibly agitated, one of the recruiters yelled, "I hope you get shot in the head like Martin Luther King! I hope you all get shot in the head!" according to witnesses. The same recruiter then instigated a short verbal altercation with Van Der Meer, who yelled back, "I hope you get shot too!" The recruiter began to push the professor, who raised nothing but his voice in his own defense. Officer J. St. Ives separated the two men, ordering Van Der Meer to quiet down while the recruiters left the building. This reporter and others present watched as St. Ives, with no further provocation, assaulted the professor, pushing him to the ground, tearing his corduroy jacket and handcuffing him. Several officers dragged Van Der Meer away amidst student chants of "Police brutality, police brutality!" "

Professor, recruiter face off at Umass  4/4/2003 Boston Globe: a disturbing trend - the article has inaccuracies, but is fair. Professor Van Der Meer is at Africana Studies and was jumped by Campus Security while protecting a student from a rabid military recruiter.

Final Rites Of Passage: a Salute to Brother Eugene Godfried, 4/11/09top

by Tony Van Der Meer

Life has a hard way of reminding us that our passage in this world is not permanent. This lesson, while known to us is reinforced when we lose our family, friends or love ones. Their loss is often a difficult transition to make. We get caught up in the wonderful and joyful memories we have of them, and then have to come to the hard reality that their physical presence will forever be gone. This is generally a difficult emotional void and transition to make. For many family members, friends and love ones of Eugene Godfried – his departure creates a disbelief we have to reconcile.
Because Eugene was an internationalist by his spiritual and political practices, many family members, friends and love ones were unable to participate and say their last goodbyes and salute Eugene in his final rites of passage, his transitioning into the spiritual world of the ancestors. I was fortunate to be in Curacao to pay my respects and give a final salute to my friend, brother and comrade Eugene Godfried.

Upon hearing of his death, I cried every day until we laid him to rest in peace on April 4th, the anniversary day of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Eugene’s send off was very much in the tradition of African descendents customs and cultural practices of Curacao. Like the customs and cultural practices of my family in Suriname, another “former” Dutch colony, family members host a private mourning time so that they can speak with the departed and release their spirit. Often family members take pictures and pose by the decease. I was invited to be with the immediate family, to mourn with them and to say my final goodbye, to salute Brother Eugene’s physical form. The family also selected me to be one of comrade Eugene’s pall-bearers, helping to carry Brother Eugene’s casket to the church service and to his final resting place.

At the church service, the governor of Curacao, along with many former and current elected officials came to pay their last respects. This was very important to the family, especially his Aunt Crisma and Wife Angela. Eugene left Curacao because of differences with political officials who were in power. Those differences casted a negative shadow over Eugene’s work and presence in Curacao. Both his Aunt and Wife, were also very pleased that Eugene was able to come back and spend the last couple of years in Curacao. They were so proud, along with his daughters Yomini and Nohraya of Eugene when he was honored with full protocol in January at the Governors place. It was a victory that will be marked in history and overshadows the negative shade that forced his departure from Curacao many years ago. According to his Aunt and advisor, Crisma, Eugene was proud as well. He was excited that his country had honored him, a humble grassroots man whose sacrifices his family had to endure. I could hear his proud Caribbean accented voice and his laughter and see his smile when his Aunt told me how they stayed up to 3 o’clock in the morning discussing the occasion. 

In some way, the trip to Curacao was like a reunion. While I had seen Eugene’s Aunt Crisma in Havana in 2001, I had not seen Betty, his Uncle Omalie and Dr. Claude Makouke from Guadeloupe since 2003 when all of us were in Santiago de Cuba for the christening of his daughter Krisjocelyn. Betty who resides in Holland and Dr. Makouke stood in as godparents. Betty told me that she had recently been in Santiago and spent time with Krisjocelyn, her mother Josefa, as well as her grandmother and neighbors. Betty showed me pictures and I could see how tall Eugene’s daughter has grown. Unfortunately, Eugene never saw those photos of his beautiful daughter – but I was absolutely positive that he was happy that Betty was on the case in her role as Godmother. This is exactly why Eugene chose her as he expressed it to me in Santiago.

I was able to spend time with his daughters – Nohraya who I hadn’t seen since 2000 after her visit to Boston and Yomini who I last saw in Havana in 2005 after Eugene’s leg was amputated. Both of them held up well and stood strong knowing that their father left a proud and rich legacy of international struggle for equality, humanity and social justice. As usual, whenever I would visit Eugene, I ended up with new friends and another assignment. I got to meet with some of Eugene’s childhood friends and seasoned comrades Rudy Lampe, a member of parliament in Aruba, and Claudio Martina, Vice President of a new movement Eugene was President of, Plataforma Agrario Nashonal (PAN). I also had some time to talk with the Former Prime Minister of Curacao Don Martina; Pablo Cova, President of one the major unions in Curacao with 10,000 members; Navin Chandarpal of Guyana an Adviser to the President on Sustainable Development and the Honorable Selmon Walters, Minister for Rural Transformation, who was in Curacao to officially represent the Prime Minister of St. Vincent. I also got to met Eugene’s cousin Rutger who worked very hard making sure friends and family visiting the house to pay their condolences was comfortable.

Navin Chandarpal, the Honorable Selmon Walters and Rudy Lampe all gave wonderful and comforting talks about the significance of Eugene’s sacrifice and work. I also spoke briefly and brought greetings and condolences to the family from friends and comrades in the United States as well as special friends in Boyeros and Guantanamo Cuba. Eugene’s daughter Yomini spoke of what she learned from assisting her father in his work in Cuba.

In reflecting on all of this, it is also hard to think about some of the people who were family to him in Cuba and the United States – people who supported and looked after him. Eugene was a major presence in their lives. In Havana, my good friend and sister Rosa and her son Alexandro; Niyurca and her daughters Glenda and Glevies, her mother and brothers Bobby and Julio; Martha and many other who lived in the Boyeros community. In the United States exile community, I thought of Sister Assata, Nehanda and Brother Charles, and without doubt, his many comrades and co-workers at Radio Progresso in Havana.

In Santiago, Eugene’s daughter and her mother Josefa comes to mind along with her aunts, cousins, the neighbors next door and Rene, who was very fond of Eugene. I think about Rudulfo who is the President of the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artist (UNEAC) in Santiago, and Aberto Lescay, a member of the People’s Power and one of Cuba’s national artists who designed and built the wonderfully huge monument of General Antonio Maceo in the center of Santiago de Cuba, both respected friends of Eugene.

In Guantanamo, Vivian and her family, Luis Bennett, Jorge George and members of the British West Indian Welfare Center and Carmen, the former Minister of Culture in Guantanamo, and of course members of the Guantanamo radio station. There are so many others whose names I can’t recall now, but who will miss Eugene dearly. Even in his passing, Eugene has made some good friends. Eugene made friends very easily. Some of my students who stayed up with me late in the night for three days putting together a short documentary of photos and video I have taken of Eugene since 2001 were so moved by the experience that one of them said “I love Eugene, he’s the man!” 

The excitement of my students reminds me of what Eugene’s wife Angela told me about him when they were in Grenada and met with Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, I think in 1980 or so. While in Grenada Eugene had wanted to meet with the Cubans and finally got the chance. Angela said that Eugene was so excited that he stayed up talking with them all-night. She said that was it for him – and it was Cuba every since. Make no mistake, he loved his native home Curacao, but as his long time childhood friend Rudy Lampe said at Eugene’s Funeral, Curacao was too small for Eugene’s ideas.

Eugene loved Cuba. He knew that society very well. He carried the banner of the Cuban revolution to his death. Wherever he traveled he would educate people about the proud history of the Cuban people as a sovereign nation. I will never forget during the 2004 National Democratic Convention in Boston when Eugene tried to interview Jesse Jackson about Cuba. The expression on Jesse Jackson’s face was priceless as Eugene, with just a cell phone in his hand tried to get Jackson to comment on the U.S. Blockade against Cuba. It was because of Eugene that I visited Cuba to get an understanding for myself. As Eugene took me around to see various places and meet the many people I did, Eugene would say, “Brother Tony you have to understand this reality for yourself, you have to see the good and the bad.” Eugene dedicated his life to the Cuban revolution.

In many ways, Eugene reminds me of something Queen Mother Moore said to me: “You have to enjoy struggle, you have to make it fun.” Queen Mother Moore is the one who publicly on WILD Radio Station in Boston, 1979 gave me the name Menelik. Queen Mother Moore was a very active and influential force in the Black Liberation Movement in the United States, who passed away at the age of 97 in 1998. Although Eugene had some difficult times in his life, he enjoyed struggle and had fun doing it. Eugene was a multidimensional person. While he was serious and focused on the work at hand, he made sure that it had life, reflective of the joy and not just the agony, the victories and not just the losses and the smiles, not just the tears.

Eugene was not born with such a perspective – it was something that developed over a period of time. I find it interesting that Eugene wanted to be a catholic priest. It seems to me that his spiritual passion for humanity was something that stayed with him in his quest as a developing revolutionary. While Eugene missed many years with his children and wife as a family man, he made extended family where he was. Yet, he was nostalgic about his direct family. From what I observed of him, music helped him cherish, reflect and recapture those special moments.

The process of working with my students and their getting excited about putting together our documentary project was also something I’m sure Eugene is happy about – it engaged my students with informal work they enjoyed and they were able to learn about the struggle for equality, humanity and social justice from their own engagement. It was also a lesson for them on using their talents and skills to promote what Dr. King calls a “people oriented society and not a thing oriented society,” an idea Eugene also believed dearly in.

Eugene was constantly growing and changing from his experiences. He was able to absorb so much so rapidly and synthesize, internalize and apply it. He had a brilliant mind, but while he knew about a lot of things, whenever a new perspective was introduced on something, he would say “oh! You made think of something I hadn’t thought about, now I have to think about these things and start to apply it.” Eugene reminds me of what Mary Catherine Bateson, said in her book Full Circles, Overlapping lives: Culture and Generations in Transition: “Learning, I become something new. Now we need a new definition of the self: I am not what I know but what I am willing to learn. Mystery waits in the mirror. Curiosity and learning begin before breakfast. Growing, we move through worlds of difference, the cycles and circles of a life, fulfilled by overlapping with the lives of others.”

In the sacred text of Ifa there is a story that also reflects Eugene’s life journey. In a story in Odu Ifa: Ofun Meji, chanted by Dr. Wande Abimbola, one of the foremost Ifa scholars and practitioners states:

The person we are looking for
Who sometimes we may meet on the way
Ifa Divination was performed for Orangun of the City
Ifa Divination was also performed for Orangun of the Village.
Tell Alara (King)
I have found good fortune
Tell Ajero (King)
I have found good fortune.
Tell Orangun, King of the city of Ila
That good fortune which has been lost has now arrived.

Just as this Odu speaks of a person living between two Kingdoms looking for someone or something, Eugene’s life was also divided between Curacao and Cuba. He was searching for the Ideas that can make a better society to live in. Besides the ideas he found in Cuba, the Caribbean and throughout the world, his family was always his good fortune. Fortunately, in his last years he rediscovered the good fortune in his family and began to say so. While Eugene was materially a poor man, he was substantively very wealthy. His experiences, work and all of us in his life made him a man of good fortune. Therefore, he too is our good fortune we are looking for.

I am fortunate that Eugene and I have met on the way. There are few people in life that you get to share the warmth, love and camaraderie in struggle. Eugene makes me appreciates more, those that I found on my way - as a young man who was a member of the African People’s Party over 30 years ago and met comrades who I love dearly and have been able to stay in touch and work with.

Our Comrade, Brother Eugene is gone. We will miss him dearly. We salute his contribution to the struggle for equality, humanity, and social justice. We will learn from his dedication and experience so that we can continue the struggle for a new society. Until we meet again, A Luta Continua!
Dare to Struggle!
Dare to Win!

Tony Menelik Van Der Meer
(Awo Alakisa)

Published in Black Commentator, 4/16/09 -

Tony Menelik Van Der Meer on Eugene Godfried, 3/30/09top
Professor Van Der Meer is in the Department of Africana Studies, UMass, Boston.

It is with great sadness that I inform you that brother Eugene Godfried passed away on Sunday. He had been in the hospital since last Monday due to a stroke. It was reported to me that he was listening to a dvd of The Afro-Cuban Legends when he passed away. As an authority on Cuban Son, it was appropriate that his final transition was in what brought him joy. For those of you who knew Eugene, Rhythm & Blues was another of his passions -- Eugene loved R&B, especially the music of Motown, which he was also listening to in his last days

I will never forget when we were in Santiago De Cuba talking to an 80 year old Afro Cuban lawyer who was one of the founders of the University of the Oriente that we had bumped into by chance. Eugene was so excited to have met this elder because he was involved in one of the black societies who consciously fought against the racism that existed in Cuba. In fact, the founding of the university was so that Black Cubans would be able to get a college education in the 50´s because of the segregation nature that existed during that time. Anyway, as Eugene spoke about his research of Black people in Cuban and begun to talk about and sing some of the verses of the music of Cuban Son, the elder began to cry. He asked Eugene how did someone as young as you know this. The elder said that Eugene made him happy and hopefully for Black Cubans that someone is passing the tradition on. 

That moment reminded me of the exchanges I had witness growing up in Harlem, on the corner of 117th street on 8th Avenue, where the older men would sit up against the wall and discuss politics and the events of the day.

Eugene´s passing is a great loss. He was very talented, committed and dedicated to creating a new society in which all people are equal, free and able to develop according to their abilities. Eugene dedicated and sacrificed the majority of his life for the Cuban revolution. He was a humanitarian and an internationalist of the highest degree. He was born in Curacao, and was fortunate to spend the past year or so with his family. Several years ago, Eugene had to have his leg amputated as a result of some complications with diabetes. I went to visit Eugene in Cuba to take him some material support when many of you made contributions. Even after his recovery, Eugene began to carry out his research on African Cuban history and was able to get a commission developed in Cuba around honoring the Party of the Independents of Color, which existed in early 1900´s -- several thousand of its members were massacred in 1912. Eugene continued to write and post on as well as do internet radio broadcasting. Eugene spoke 7 languages fluently. I remember one evening when we were in Boston and went to a Chinese restaurant to eat. Eugene ordered the food in Chinese. The waiter was absolutely stunned. He called the cooks and kitchen help who came to the door smiling to look at this Black man who was speaking their language.

Eugene was the one who opened the doors to Cuba for me. It was because of him that I was able to convince the chair of the Africana Studies Department to develop an exchange program. As a result, several colleagues, Professors Marc Prou and Robert Johnson along with Eugene visited Havana, Matanzas, Santiago and Guantanamo, setting up a program for students at the University of Massachusetts Boston to visit. Eugene was also the connection that got Assata Shakur to write the introduction to my book, State of the Race, edited by Jemadari Kamara and myself.

What I love the most about Eugene was that he was a grassroots person and made it clear, as my wife said, he acknowledged that ordinary people were extraordinary. He was a true revolutionary.

He loved observing how the very least of us lived their lives and how they survived, how they were innovative and creative. We would visit and hang out with working people in some of the poorest areas in Havana, Santiago and Guantanamo, talking and listening to their likes and dislikes, about music and food. He would eat, sign and joke with them. It is important to understand that Eugene was a member of the communist party in Cuba and was a member of its ideological bureau. Yet, Eugene was not lecturing, debating or imposing on the people, he was humble among them, learning from them and reinforcing their value, and the people didn´t know that Eugene was a party person, a linguist, a musicologist, a historian, or a journalist. Like all of us he was not perfect. He loved to smoke, have a drink, say the occasional curse and loved his women. Despite how hard life was, Eugene had, if any, very few regrets. He enjoyed and lived his life as full as he could. There are projects that I´m sure he would have loved to continue but time was short. When he worked, he worked hard, often doing so with very little resources, but nevertheless, producing good products. Even when he was sick and living in Michigan, getting dialysis every Tuesday, he had established a makeshift radio and broadcasting studio in his living room. He would post them in English, Spanish, French and Dutch Creole on YouTube. I was amazed at his persistence and the volume of work he was able to produce.

I also witnessed Eugene sternly and principally challenge the views of some very powerful people in Cuba, and I watched them acknowledge and even agree with his points. I also want to make it clear that Eugene loved Cuba - he sacrificed his life for Cuba. He was a Che Gueverra. He was more Cuban than some of the Cubans I have met.

There have been a few people I have met in my life who walk the walk and practice much of what they preached. There have also been few people that I have met that were humble, authentic and self critical of their own actions and had the passion, courage and perseverance to stand up against the giants of the world and speak truth to power - Eugene was one of them.

I am also going to miss the Eugene who made me laugh so hard that I had to bend over because it was hurting in my gut and made tears come to my eyes as I have now thinking about him. We know that our lives are not permanent, but when the time comes to visit the ancestors it is still a difficult process for us who are still here to deal with the loss. Eugene is one of the people I always mentioned in my prayers to the Orisas asking to protect and help him. Now I ask the ancestors to welcome him and I will now ask him as an ancestor to continue waging a spiritual battle to help us on earth continue to fight for humanity and our right be self determining and free. As Eugene always said as we departed, "we don´t say good bye comrade Tony, we will see each other again," - well, I salute you comrade brother Eugene, I look forward to seeing you again when it's my time to visit the ancestors. 



Tony Menelik Van Der Meer (Awo Alakisa) 03/30/09
"I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first 
spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government."
April 4th, 1967
"A Time To Break The Silence"
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Campus police assaults Africana Studies
professor at U Mass Boston over military recruitment, professor being tried, 4/03

Professor Van der Meer of UMass Boston's Africana Studies Department was viciously assaulted on 4/3/03 by campus police after intervening when a Massachusetts National Guard recruiter was shouting death threats to his students: "I hope you get shot in the head like Martin Luther King! I hope you all get shot in the head!" The UMass President, William M. Bulger, and Chancellor, Jo Ann M. Gora,  have so far declined to try and get the charges dropped. Professor Van der Meer was scheduled to be arraigned at 8:30 AM in Dorchester District Court on 5/28/03, but this has been postponed, new time to be posted here.

Possibly the best article on this incident is Tensions High After UMB Professor's Arrest, Dorchester Reporter, 4/10/03.

Students and professors at UMass are organizing around this. They say that letters to the DA and to University officials are definitely helpful. A student government representative points out that the DA and University officials are public officials and citizens are free to petition to see them on this issue. 

Professor Van der Meer has been actively involved in AfroCuban culture. We will be updating this page as the news develops.

Daniel F. Conley
Suffolk County District Attorney

Dorchester District Court is under the Suffolk County DA's Office

The DA is Daniel F. Conley,

President William M. Bulger

University of Massachusetts President's Office
One Beacon Street, 26th Floor
Boston, MA 02108

Email for William Bulger:, c/o or or

Jo Ann M. Gora
Chancellor, University of Massachusetts, Boston


Email for Jo Ann M. Gora:

Charges Against Van Der Meer Dropped, 12/23/03

by tony naro
23 Dec 2003 

A judge ratified an agreement (for "pre-trial probation") under which all the charges against Tony Van Der Meer were essentially dropped. Last April 3, Van Der Meer - a Black professor of Africana studies at UMass Boston - was assaulted and arrested by campus police after challenging an Army National Guard recruiter on campus who had threatened student Tony Naro as he handed out flyers for an anti-war commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Van Der Meer tried to mediate the tense situation, but five officers put him under arrest. 

****press release****

For further information, contact Tony Naro at 617-365-2990 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 17, 2003 

Victory in Van Der Meer Case! Government Drops All Charges! 

BOSTON - In the post-9/11 Patriot Act environment of growing government attacks on political activism, there haven't been very many victories for the Bill of Rights and civil liberties. Today in Dorchester District Court, after many delays, one such victory unfolded. A judge ratified an agreement (for "pre-trial probation") under which all the charges against Tony Van Der Meer were essentially dropped. 

Last April 3, Van Der Meer - a Black professor of Africana studies at UMass Boston - was assaulted and arrested by campus police after challenging an Army National Guard recruiter on campus who had threatened student Tony Naro as he
handed out flyers for an anti-war commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Van Der Meer objected to the recruiter's remark that the student should be "shot in the head" like Dr. King. 

Van Der Meer tried to mediate the tense situation, but what unfolded was chilling: the police told him to "shut the [expletive] up" and wrestled him to the ground. His clothes were ripped and his glasses broken. Five officers put him under arrest and brought him to the campus police headquarters, where he was chained to a wall. Later he was transported to Dorchester District Court, where he was shackled and put in detention awaiting arraignment.

Despite more than 15 witnesses who could testify that, in fact, it was the National Guard recruiter and campus police who were responsible for the altercation and any criminal activity, Van Der Meer was charged with assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. He faced up to five years in prison - until today's victory. While no charges have been brought against any of the others involved, both Van Der Meer and Naro are considering civil action against the National Guard and the UMass campus police for violations of their civil rights.

The assault, battery, and wrongful arrest of Prof. Tony Van Der Meer outraged UMass staff, faculty, and students. A petition and letter- writing campaign demanding the charges be dropped was conducted worldwide. Students and others rallied on campus and packed the courtroom at every pretrial hearing. 

This case has raised serious questions about the right to free speech on campus and institutional racism. It has highlighted how even a campus police department, in the new environment, is expected to play a "Homeland Security" role by repressing democratic rights. 

The attacks on Van Der Meer and Naro are part of a nationwide, ongoing assault against the right to speak out against war. Despite today's victory, the battle for justice is not over. 

Tensions High After UMB Professor's Arrest, Dorchester Reporter, 4/10/03top

Dorchester Reporter
April 10, 2003

By Nadine Hoffman

UMass Boston administrators addressed allegations of systemic racism during a public forum on Monday (April 7), following the assault and arrest of Professor Anthony Van Der Meer by campus police during a confrontation with military recruiters last week. Although college officials have condemned the incident, the university has taken no action to drop charges against the professor, creating palpable tension as students and faculty members confronted school authorities, demanding accountability.

Van Der Meer was arrested last Thursday (April 3) while defending students' right to pass out anti-war fliers. More than 200 students and faculty members came to the Monday afternoon forum, sharing concerns of a communication break-down between campus authorities and students, as well as fear for their own safety in the wake of what has been characterized by witnesses as blatant police violence.

Chancellor Jo Ann Gora, who did not attend the forum, stressed the importance of civil liberties, saying in a prepared statement that freedom of speech and assembly are two "sacred" rights at the university. Many who attended the forum felt that those rights were violated by campus police.

Shown right: Professor Anthony Van Der Meer

"Every African American student does not feel safe on this campus," Melinda Emmanuel, director of the Black Student Center's administrative board, said. "If this is something that can happen to my professor…this could happen to me."

Wendy Baring-Gould, director of education and community outreach for the Arts on the Point program, was running an errand when she passed the scene of the arrest. She said she fears for the state of free speech in America because of what she saw. "Do we risk being charged for simply voicing our opinion?" she asked.

Chief Phillip O'Donnell of UMass Boston's public safety office and panelist at Monday's forum expressed concern regarding student and faculty fears.

"It's disturbing to sit here and hear that some students feel unsafe," O'Donnell said. "We have tried very hard over the years to ensure that this is a safe community."

O'Donnell called arrest a "last option" and added that only 12 arrests were made by campus police in 2002.

UMass Boston police arrested Van Der Meer on charges of assault and battery of an officer and resisting arrest Thursday following an altercation between National Guard recruiters and Black Student Center volunteers. The students, who were distributing fliers advertising a Martin Luther King remembrance day/anti-war moment of silence, were asked to move by recruiters. The guardsmen subsequently called police to have the students removed.

Van Der Meer, an advisor to the Black Student Center and member of the Africana Studies department, arrived on the scene to defend his students' right to distribute information. Visibly agitated, one of the recruiters yelled, "I hope you get shot in the head like Martin Luther King! I hope you all get shot in the head!" according to witnesses.

The same recruiter then instigated a short verbal altercation with Van Der Meer, who yelled back, "I hope you get shot too!" The recruiter began to push the professor, who raised nothing but his voice in his own defense. Officer J. St. Ives separated the two men, ordering Van Der Meer to quiet down while the recruiters left the building.

This reporter and others present watched as St. Ives, with no further provocation, assaulted the professor, pushing him to the ground, tearing his corduroy jacket and handcuffing him. Several officers dragged Van Der Meer away amidst student chants of "Police brutality, police brutality!"

Africana Studies Professor Jemadari Kamara, one of the panelists, warned that "unless we're willing to face up to the issue of racism the rest of this is for naught." Next time, he added, "the crisis will be more grave."

Kamara called Van Der Meer's arrest "a manifestation of set relationships of power that are out of order," adding, "I would urge us to commit ourselves to engage in a process of undoing racism."

The college's Muslim Student Association representative said her group felt "distressed that he was made to feel like 'a runaway slave' by our own campus police," and urged Chancellor Gora to investigate and bring the matter to justice.

Sylvia Beevas, assistant coordinator of the Black Student Center, challenged administrators to root out racist policies. "You say public safety isn't racist, but they've been harassing us," she said. "I don't feel like you guys are doing enough for safety." Beevas called for the dismissal of the officers involved in Van Der Meer's arrest.

Campus police targeted Van Der Meer once before, confronting him in his office and asking to see valid identification. The professor says he was wearing a baseball cap that day, and officers were on the look out for a black male perpetrator in a hat. "They saw a black man in a baseball cap," he said, and immediately suspected him.

Professor Van Der Meer, himself a member of the panel, had mixed sentiments about the situation. On one hand, he said he felt "overwhelmed by the support of the community" (excluding one death threat that he received on his answering machine). Despite that support, he said of his arrest, "It seems like Baghdad is coming to campus."

He called the incident "an embarrassment to the university as a whole," and added, "When something like this happens, I don't know who's who." Charges, he said, were being brought by police through the university.

"There are some systemic things that we have to address as a community and we can do it," he said. "We have to use our mouths as weapons and not use guns."

Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance, David MacKenzie, reiterated the importance of open dialogue to prevent a recurrence of events like Van Der Meer's arrest. "This forum is for us to talk about how we should have discourse on this campus and what is the right to disagree," MacKenzie said. "We don't expect all of these issues to be resolved today."

"We need to keep talking about this thing," MacKenzie said, "so we don't become our own worst enemy."


Students Protest Arrest of Local Professor, Weekly Dig, 4/9/03top

Students Protest Arrest of Local Professor, 4/9/03
by The Ria

A speak-out was held Monday at UMass Boston for Tony Van Der Meer, professor of the Africana Studies Department, who was arrested last Thursday after a skirmish with a recruiter for the National Guard. The incident began when Mr. Van Der Meer came to the defense of student Tony Naro, who was wearing a shirt that read “Military Recruiters Off My Campus.” When Van Der Meer arrived, Naro was being called names by the recruiter and was being questioned by campus police for handing out flyers for a remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. According to witnesses, the name calling from the recruiters escalated, eventually leading to a recruiter telling Van Der Meer that he should be “shot in the head.” The majority of those in attendance on Monday opposed Mr. Van Der Meer’s arrest, citing that he was not the aggressor, though police claim that Van Der Meer pushed an officer. A hearing for Mr. Van Der Meer will be held on May 28.


Author(s):    Douglas Belkin, Globe Staff Date: April 4, 2003 Page: B1 Section: Metro/Region

In another sign of increasing tensions on college campuses over the war in Iraq, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston was arrested yesterday and charged with assaulting a police officer after he exchanged heated words with a National Guard recruiter.

Eyewitnesses said the recruiter told adjunct professor Tony Van Der Meer and a student that they should be shot in the head for their antiwar views. A Massachusetts National Guard spokesman, Captain Winfield Danielson, said the Guard is going to look into what happened yesterday at UMass and will take appropriate action.

The skirmish is the latest in a growing list of incidents in which simmering tensions about the war have boiled over on high school and college campuses.

On Wednesday at Wheaton College in Norton, students replaced an upside-down American flag with a sign citing the First Amendment after they received a death threat for their antiwar activism.

The day before, in California, administrators at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana canceled classes, citing concerns for student safety and warning of the potential for violence at an antiwar rally planned near the school.

At UMass-Boston, spokesman Ed Hayward said the university will review yesterday's incident and its policy toward recruiters on campus. He said he knew of no other clashes on campus between antiwar organizations and war supporters.

The confrontation, which began with activists handing out information on various causes, disintegrated into a shouting match, with students screaming at the guardsmen and campus police, eyewitnesses said.

UMass student Tony Naro said the recruiter sparked the dispute by heckling him as he passed out leaflets to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the fatal shooting of Martin Luther King Jr.

"He called me a [expletive] communist," said Naro, a senior, who was wearing a black T-shirt with the words "Education Not Enlistment" on the front and "Military Recruiters off My Campus" on the back.

The two argued, and campus police were called because someone was "blocking the guardsmen from handing out informational pamphlets," according to the police report.

As the guardsmen packed up their literature and began to leave, Van Der Meer walked into the lobby. It's unclear what happened next, but a half-dozen students and Van Der Meer later said that one of the four guardsmen turned to Naro and the professor and said: "You should be shot in the head."

"No. You should be shot in the head," replied Van Der Meer, according to Shauntell Foster, a senior and a student of Van Der Meer's. Students Theresa Myrthil and Bethanie Petitfrere said they also watched the confrontation.

According to the police report, which did not record their words, the men were screaming at each other, nose-to-nose. An officer stepped between them.

The students said Van Der Meer never raised his hands or threatened the officer, and that the officer attacked Van Der Meer. In his report, the officer said Van Der Meer shoved him in the chest and told him to "get out of my [expletive] face," and then elbowed him in the chest.

Three UMass-Boston police officers tackled Van Der Meer and wrestled him to the ground, several students said. Meanwhile, students started filing into the lobby and shouting "Stop police brutality" and "Recruiters off our campus."

After his arraignment and not-guilty plea yesterday Van Der Meer, still wearing the green corduroy jacket that was torn during his arrest, said he did resist arrest after police accosted him. "I resisted," he said to the applause of about 30 students who had come to Dorchester District Court to support him. "I don't see why I should be assaulted."

"It's shameful," Van Der Meer said. "It says something about academic freedom."

UMass-Boston professor arrested supporting students anti-war actions, Refuse & Resist, 4/3/03top

JSONSnew - Boston/Region

UMass-Boston professor arrested while trying to help students By Nadine Hoffman

4/3/03 A UMass-Boston professor, called on to defend his students' right to pass out anti-war fliers, was himself thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested by campus police Thursday on charges of assaulting an officer and resisting arrest.

Anthony Van Der Meer, a professor of Africana and American Studies, went to the second-story McCormack Hall lounge to intercede on behalf of several members of the Black Student Center. The students, who were handing out leaflets advertising a Martin Luther King remembrance day/anti-war moment of silence Friday, had been told to move by nearby National Guard recruiters.

Although witnesses, including this reporter, never saw Van Der Meer raise anything but his voice in response to physical intimidation by a recruiter, a campus officer threw the professor to the ground, tore his jacket and arrested him. The recruiter and his colleagues left the scene unchallenged.

After his arraignment at the Dorchester District Courthouse, the professor returned to campus, still wearing the same shredded jacket, and at a press conference with about 100 colleagues and supporters, said, "They booked me and treated me like a runaway slave."

Vice-Chancellor Jo Ann Gora made a brief statement condemning racially motivated violence and promising that the administration would ensure the UMass community's protection from what she characterized as heavy-handed police action.

Ed Hayward, associate vice chancellor for University Communications, said Van Der Meer's arrest "is under investigation by UMass police as well as by the university." While he noted that it was too early for the school to release an official comment on the incident, he said that "the entire thing will be reviewed."

Earlier in the day, campus public safety officials declined comment. The recruiters remained unidentified.

Events unfolded on campus at about 12:30 p.m.

Twenty-two-year-old UMB senior Tony Naro, the student in charge of distributing the fliers, said he was asked to move away from a National Guard recruiting station because of his T-shirt, which bore the slogan, "Education not enlistment: Military recruiters off my campus."

Naro said the guardsmen complained that he and his fellow students did not have a permit to distribute the information, and subsequently called campus police to have them removed. Naro, who says he did have the required permit, called Van Der Meer, one of his professors and counselor to the Black Student Center. The professor quickly came to the scene and began talking to the recruiters.

As the discussion between recruiters and students grew heated, Naro said one recruiter told Van Der Meer, "I hope you get shot in the head like Martin Luther King." Then, witnesses said, the recruiter turned to the students distributing fliers and screamed, "I hope you all get shot in the head!"

After making the remark, the recruiter moved within six inches of Van Der Meer's face and proceeded to verbally harass him. Provoked, Van Der Meer yelled back, saying, "I hope you get shot, too."

The recruiter began to push Van Der Meer, who made no attempt to push back but continued to yell. Campus police officer J. St. Ives stepped between the two men, at which point the recruiter, along with the other recruiters present, left the building.

Van Der Meer, still visibly upset, continued to yell at the recruiter as he left, ignoring demands from St. Ives to quiet down. With no further provocation evident to witnesses, St. Ives began to push the professor - who tried to elude the officer's grasp. The officer ultimately threw Van Der Meer to the ground, badly ripping his suit jacket. Van Der Meer continued to yell, defending his right to speak freely, as he was handcuffed and dragged away by several officers.

Dozens of students witnessing the arrest chanted "Police brutality, police brutality!" after Van Der Meer was removed from the building. The students also taunted police, yelling, "Why didn't you arrest him?" in reference to the recruiter, who by this time had left the building.

"I'm not arresting anyone in the military because I choose not to," St. Ives responded.

As the shouting match continued, police threatened several particularly vocal students, including Naro, with arrest.

"That is plain racism," Naro (who is white) said of Van Der Meer's arrest. He called it a classic instance of "authority over the people," adding, "They saw him as the aggressor because he's a black male."

Naro called Van Der Meer "a respected member of this community."

Shauntell Foster, a 26-year-old senior and witness at the scene, said that after seeing such blatant police violence, "I don't want to be part of this institution anymore."

"To see my hero be shot down like that means we can't stand up for what we believe in," Foster said. "He does have a right to [speak freely].... This was a peaceful gathering and for them [recruiters, police] to turn this into a violent situation is ridiculous."

At the press conference held later in the day, Van Der Meer received support from more than 100 colleagues, administrators and students, who expressed outrage that such an incident had occurred on their campus.

Gulet Shirdon, a junior and member of the Black Student Center who was passing out fliers when the arrest took place, spoke candidly about his feelings in light of the police violence. "I really don't feel safe on this campus at this moment," Shirdon said. "When I saw this man being tackled like he was on a football field, that really brought tears to my eyes."

Naro gave his account of the arrest, saying, "Something went wrong here today and it's something that's been going wrong for a good amount of time.... It shouldn't happen at our school, it shouldn't happen in our communities but it happens every day, and this bullshit makes me mad."

Some students started crying while they spoke about the day's events. A Haitian student named Bethany, who has Van Der Meer as a professor, said she felt like she had traveled back in time to the civil rights movement when she learned of Van Der Meer's brutal treatment. "Today showed us we're still in bondage," she told her peers.

Van Der Meer echoed this sentiment. "We're still in 2003 trying to be treated like human beings," he said.

Van Der Meer will be tried May 28, 2003, at the Dorchester District Courthouse.

Assistant Dean of Students Angeline Lopes announced that the college would hold a public forum Monday, April 7, 2003, to discuss ways to heal as a community. "It's not just about talking," Lopes said, "It's about something like this will never happen again."

Van Der Meer did not comment on whether he intended to press charges against either the recruiter, whose identity is as yet unknown, or the campus police.

A representative of the college's office of student affairs, which gave recruiters a permit to be on the campus, declined to identify who the recruiters were or how they could be reached.


UMass-Boston professor arrested supporting students anti-war actions, 4/3/03

Radicaliz - UMass Boston student site with reactions to the case

The Impact of Africana Studies on Students of Non-African Descent: Research team leader, Tony Van Der Meer (Africana Studies)

War on Terrorism or Assault on Human Rights?
Conference Saturday MAY 3rd  9am - 5pm

Activities that have, according to the UMBHRWG, led individuals and organizations to express concern that the War on Terrorism has turned into an attack on human rights include the:

1.      arrest of University of Massachusetts Adjunct Professor Tony Van Der Meer following an incident in which a National Guard recruiter told him he should be shot in the head for his antiwar views.  

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