Boston University students opposing their school’s desire to build a Biosafety Level-4 lab in Roxbury are working to put a stop to the construction of what they deemed an “environmentally racist and f—– up plan.”
The students, who held a meeting in the Women’s Resource Center on Wednesday, created an anti-Biolab group in an effort to hamper the administration’s “scary project.”
Collaborating together, students have been taking to the streets with megaphones, holding protests, marches and zombie walks since 2003 to stop the lab’s development.
“We’ve used a megaphone before and it’s amazing how a really loud noise can control a group,” said Jeff Stein, a College of Arts and Sciences senior.
However, the group said it has not communicated with the BU administration since 2007 when a member attempted to have a meeting with Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, but only got in contact with his assistant, said Ian Chinich, a second year PhD student in CAS.
“We really need to broaden our base, by holding more educational meetings,” said Shahrzad Noorballochi, a senior in CAS. “After the event I attended, I was really heated up and talked about it in my classes… It’s a big issue, people just don’t know enough about it.”
The group said they plan on holding more die-ins – a form of protest where members feign death – and banner drops, as well as organize a “tech-in.”
“We’re going to stop this lab and shut it down,” Stein said.
The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories is a project, partially funded by the National Institute of Health and the Federal Department of Defense, which plans to develop diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics to fight infectious diseases, such as Ebola, Small Pox and the plague, according to the NEIDL website.
The $178 million lab, scheduled to open in 2007, has been delayed from operating several times due to unsafe conditions.
Because the Department of Defense funds chemical warfare development, BU students said they fear this technology will be used to develop biological weaponry and pose as a threat to the community.
“BU knows that the community in Roxbury doesn’t want this lab,” Stein said. “It’s been stopped by various courts and panels several times because BU hasn’t demonstrated an ability to adequately address the safety and environmental risks of the lab.”
The lab, which is backed by the majority of the Boston City Council and Mayor Thomas Menino, was built in Roxbury amid objections from residents.
“The lab is being put into one of the poorest neighborhoods of Boston… largely one of people of color,” Chinich said.
“Regardless of that, Roxbury is obviously going to be the hardest hit if anything happens. I know that it is less political fall out for them to do it there than here because of the students.”
Former City Councilman Chuck Turner, who represented Roxbury and was convicted in December of accepting bribes, was among the council members against the bill.
“It’s really sad that the most progressive person on the Boston City Council was kicked out,” Chinich said.
“But the primaries are coming up soon and I’m hoping we’ll get someone anti-lab on the ballot.”
However, the Boston Fire Department is stiffening conditions for lab certification by increasing security and training workers, according to The Boston Herald.
“The people of Roxbury don’t want it and the BU students don’t want it so they face a hurricane if they want to get it passed,” Chinich said.