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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Demonstrators protest Ayers speech

Published: April 30, 2009
Section: Front Page

Protesters demonstrate against Bill Ayers' speech which is scheduled for tonight at 9 p.m.

Protesters demonstrate against Bill Ayers' speech which is scheduled for tonight at 9 p.m.

Eight protesters gathered on South Street this morning to protest former Weatherman Bill Ayers’ speech at the university scheduled for 9 p.m. this evening.

The protesters, who held signs that read “Bill Ayers Go Home” and “There is blood on your hands,” heard about Ayers’ speech from Michelle McPhee, who announced the planned protest on her radio show last night on WTKK 96.9 fm.

McPhee, who was reporting live from the protest for the radio station at 9:30 this morning, told The Hoot that inviting Ayers to speak was “repugnant,” especially given that the daughter of Walter Schroeder—a Boston Police officer killed in a Weathermen-directed bank robbery in Brighton in 1970—is a Sergeant in the Waltham Police Department.

“The idea that some student would think it is appropriate to invite the founder of the terrorist organization responsible for the murder of [Sgt. Schroeder’s] father is despicable,” she said in an interview. “Sgt. Schroeder is in charge of protecting you.”

Sgt. Schroeder did not reply to requests for comment.

McPhee said that the protest this morning was set to “raise awareness,” and that she plans to come back to the university with a larger group tonight when Ayers will be on campus.

Waltham City Councilwoman Sally Collura was also at the protest, and said, “I lived in the 60’s when Ayers was at the height of his career in terrorism.”

“When you lived it, you get a really different perspective than if you are, say a Brandeis student in 2009,” she continued.

Collura added that she was particularly angered that Ayers received a $900 honorarium from student groups Students for a Democratic Society and Democracy for America.

“It would be one thing if he just came here out of the goodness of his heart to teach the students about what life was like and to apologize for the harm he caused,” she said. “But to be paid for it? They shouldn’t be helping him make a living out of terrorism.”

She added that while she has “nothing against Brandeis students—they’ve done great things for our community—I just can’t condone this.”

Clinton resident Wayne Hancock, who was born and raised in Waltham and who now works in the state’s Department of Corrections, said he came to the protest to show his support for “my fellow law enforcement officer, Walter Schroeder.”

Clinton’s sign, which read “God Bless Officer Schroeder,” elicited numerous honks of support from passing cars.

“What [Ayers] has to say is disparaging to those who defend and serve,” Hancock said. “It’s against my basic values.”

Yet while Hancock said he disagrees with what Ayers represents, he said he appreciates his right to speak.

“Look, we’d fight and die for his right to come here and speak and say what he’s going to say,” he said. “But I also have the right to stand here with my sign and say I disagree with him.”