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Paper trail


Pro-Palestinian activists can feel some vindication for their claims that the Brookline Police Department used a trumped-up charge to shut down their peaceful protest at an Israeli festival in June when protest leader Amer Jubran was arrested on a charge of kicking a passer-by (see " Kicking and Screaming, " News and Features, August 3). Last week, Jubran and fellow demonstrators received copies of documents that the Town of Brookline had provided to the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is investigating possible First Amendment violations by police. The records, which were obtained by the Phoenix, lend some credence to the activistsí claims that police tried to squelch their protest.

In a three-page report detailing the June 10 demonstration, Captain Robert Mello, who commanded police units during the Israeli festival, acknowledges that at least one officer took a large banner from several pro-Palestinian protesters after Jubran was arrested. Mello contends that the banner was blocking foot traffic, and that protesters had been warned several times before the sign was seized. Mello wrote that the officer " rolled up [the banner] and immediately returned it and advised [protesters] not to block the area in question again. " He stressed that " no person or persons were told to leave at any time. "

Yet other documents seem to contradict him. Written accounts of the June 10 radio dispatches, for instance, show that a call had gone out to police units at 1:44 p.m. requesting that officers report to the demonstration site at the corner of Harvard and Beacon Streets. According to the accounts, officers were radioed: " Clear the action ... from a demonstration taking place there. Group disturbing. Arrest Amer Jubran.... Clear, assist. Clear demonstration. " An hourlong police videotape of the protest ó which consists primarily of head shots of the demonstrators ó also captures an officer turning away from peaceful protesters who are asking questions about Jubranís arrest and telling his colleagues, " Move them. Move them out of here. " The officers are then seen advancing into the crowd. The video cuts to a scene of scattered activists looking befuddled. One of them holds a banner thatís wrapped up. No officers are seen on tape confiscating any signs; nor are they heard ordering protesters to leave.

Itís hard to say what these revelations mean in any legal sense. ACLU Massachusetts legal director John Reinstein, who had requested the documentation in a July 3 letter to Brookline officials, declined to comment on the details, except to say that heís reviewing their significance. " The documents speak for themselves, " he says. " Weíre still looking at things. Iím not prepared to say anything further right now. "

For Jubran and his supporters, the records only reinforce their complaints. At the very least, the documents fail to show that Jubran actually kicked anyone. In fact, a supplemental police report regarding the activistís arrest ó a report that he and his criminal-defense attorney have tried unsuccessfully to obtain through court motions ó even offers an eyewitness whose testimony essentially exonerates Jubran. In this report, Brookline resident Andrea Audi tells police that she spotted a man in a heated conversation with a protester minutes before Jubran was hauled away. According to the report, " This subject walked into the protester and bumped him into his chest.... Audi said she stayed in the area to see what was going to happen because she felt the [man] was the aggressor and anticipated him reporting a false claim of assault. " Audi told police that she saw the same man approach officers, who then arrested Jubran.

" I think these documents are significant, " Jubran concludes. " Itís like we have seen the ear of the elephant. I want the truth to come out. "

In other words, stay tuned.

Issue Date: September 6 - 13, 2001

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