Boston University officials are encouraging students to contact police if trespassers on private property harass them, following an incident last week when political activists disrupted a class to push their agenda in front of more than 300 students.
The incident marks the third time members from the LaRouche Youth Movement, a group supporting the anti-Bush Administration views of Lyndon LaRouche, have trespassed on BU property, said BU Police Department Sergeant Jack St. Hilaire.
Last fall, BUPD issued trespassing warnings to LYM members entering classrooms at two separate incidents, St. Hilaire said.
During the most recent incident Jan. 23, LYM members entered Morse Auditorium before the class started, sang and distributed literature, students in the class said.
“We came in, and there were all these guys lined up at the front of the room,” said College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Rebecca Slocum. “They started singing some impeach-President-Bush song and handed out fliers.
“Some people in the back of the classroom told them to leave,” she continued. “That’s the first time I’ve seen them in a classroom. I don’t know how they got in. I think [the professor] was just as startled as we were.”
LaRouche’s followers advocate ridding the White House of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, while his critics have dubbed him a cult leader with anti-Semitic leanings.
Although LYM members, who have become a staple in front of Marsh Chapel for several semesters, have a right to express their political agenda along the public sidewalk, they illegally trespassed on BU property last week by entering the classroom in Morse, said BU spokesman Colin Riley.
“The city of Boston owns the sidewalks — we don’t,” he said. “People see [LaRouche members] as a nuisance and don’t realize that they have no business being on BU property. If they are trespassing, we can arrest them, and we will.”
St. Hilaire said he encourages students to call BUPD if they feel threatened by activists’ behavior on or off campus.
“Call the police — by all means, call the police,” he said. “That’s what we are here for.”
Riley said when he learned of the Jan. 23 incident involving LYM, he wondered why students did not contact police.
Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore declined to comment for this story.
International relations professor William Keylor, who taught the class in Morse Jan. 23, said he was unable to speak to the approximately 12 activist members, who were “acting in such a strange fashion” and “abruptly finished their performance” before class began.
Keylor said while he agrees with allowing all people freedom of expression on public property, activists near campus do not have the right to enter private property in the manner the group did last week.
The Massachusetts-based LYM activists declined to comment.
CAS sophomore Andrew Kane said after a casual conversation with LaRouche activists last year, he was repeatedly approached on campus and received threatening phone calls, although he only gave them his name and not his phone number.
“They are just too confrontational,” he said. “I don’t think they have a right to harass people like that.”
According to an April 14, 2006 Boston Globe article investigating “pressure groups” on local college campuses, some schools, including Worcester State College, set up cult information web pages to help students take appropriate action when faced with pressure from groups.