Campus, News

Boston Anarchist Bookfair leaves BU after security cost dispute

One of the book tables at the Boston Anarchist Bookfair that took place in Cambridge at The Democracy Center Saturday and Makeshift Boston Sunday instead of on Boston University’s campus, as it had been in previous years. COURTESY OF THE BOSTON ANARCHIST BOOK FAIR

By John Kim and Alex LaSalvia

The Boston Anarchist Bookfair had a last-minute location change Friday from Boston University’s George Sherman Union after disputes with BU administration over the security costs, BU officials said.

The Boston Anarchist Bookfair is an organization that aims to bring local residents and activists together to have workshops, share films and have conversations regarding anarchist ideas. The Anarchist Bookfair has taken place at the GSU since 2014, but this year was moved to The Democracy Center and Makeshift Boston.

The group wrote in a Facebook post they changed the location because BU told them about security costs two days before the event that they hadn’t heard anything about before then.

Less than 48 hours before the Boston Anarchist Bookfair was scheduled to start, we were informed by the Boston University, we would have to pay for the ‘services’ of six BU police officers for the whole weekend,” the organization wrote.

The Facebook post also stated that the organization estimated the possible security cost using six police officers from Boston University Police Department as thousands of dollars and wrote they would not be able to meet BU’s financial request.

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said the security costs weren’t disclosed earlier because BU administration and BUPD were not made aware of the event until two days before.

“Within about a 48 hour period we learned of the Book Fair and we scrambled to ensure that it could happen,” Elmore said.

Elmore said the student who reserved space for the event through the Student Activities Office a few months ago did so under her student organization’s name, the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism, but did not disclose that the event would be for the Anarchist Bookfair.

BUPD determined that the bookfair would require security because of threats made against it in the past, Elmore said. Last year, the bookfair was disrupted by masked individuals with suspected Nazi affiliations.

Boston Anarchist Bookfair also wrote on Facebook that BU cancelled the event. Elmore said BU never said they could not hold the event. The organization chose to change locations after learning of the security costs.

Faith Puleikis, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences who reserved the space for the bookfair, said she booked the event the same way the CGSA had done since 2014. She wasn’t aware they were supposed to follow a different procedure this time until BU officials called her to a meeting two days before the event.

“We were told that since there was a possibility for counter protesters, it was the procedure of the Student Activities Office to have security at the event,” Puleikis said. “It was articulated very clearly that [Boston Anarchist Bookfair] would have to pay the cost and if they did not, the cost would be directly withdrawn from our [CGSA] student account.”

Puleikis said she understands that BU needed to provide security for the event, but she hopes in the future the university considers the fact that some organizations don’t have the funds to pay for security.

“Ben Shapiro is supported by millionaires whereas activist voices often aren’t going to have money behind them, it’s a penniless job,” Puleikis said. “We understand the decision but we hope as BU continues to explore free speech they’ll take these things into consideration.”

2 Comments

  1. Perhaps some questions for Dean Elmore. I believe BU pays for the security costs for some events, correct? So, how does BU determine what events will need security? If BU decides that security is necessary, how does BU determine how much added security is required? Lastly, assuming that BU pays for the added security of some events, but not others, how does BU make these choices?

  2. For the second question, BU said they decided to ask the organization to have the security since there was a protest outside the bookfair by a Fascist group last year.