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“We’re Being Criminalized”: Faculty Members Host Vigil for Gaza, BCPD Monitors

Boston College faculty held a vigil for victims of the war in Gaza with music, speeches, and student reflections on Wednesday. At the door to the event, two uniformed BCPD officers checked the backpacks and BC IDs of attendees while two more plainclothes officers monitored the room, according to M. Brinton Lykes, organizer of the event.

Lykes, co-director of BC’s Center for Human Rights and Justice, said she had never experienced police supervision at a faculty-led event before.

“It is an outrage that a vigil is being supervised,” Lykes said to The Heights after the vigil. “In all honesty, in all the years I’ve been at Boston College, I’ve never had them monitoring an event run by faculty.”

Minutes into the vigil, a line of attendees formed outside the door. Because the room reached its capacity limit, some people left to hold their own event at a park nearby, according to Claire Mengel, MCAS ’26.

“The people that were not let in at this vigil went to public space over at Boyden Park to host their own vigil impromptu,” Mengel said.

Attendance was capped at 90 people, according to Lykes. The Walsh function room, where the vigil was held, can host up to 150 people for a lecture-format event, according to BC’s website. 

“This space holds 150 people if it’s organized in lecture format, so we asked it to be organized in a lecture format, and then we got an email that urged us to be in touch with the Boston College Police to be sure we’re on the same page,” Lykes said.

Lykes said the administration informed her in an email on the day of the event that one police officer would monitor the event in uniform.

The email also instructed her and the other organizers to not admit more than 90 people to the event, check the BC IDs of attendees at the door, and not allow backpacks in the room, according to Lykes.

While she did not agree to check BC IDs, Lykes did agree to count attendees as they entered the room, she said.

“I walked up to them and said, ‘Are you all from BC?’” Lykes said. “And they said no. And so she walked in and said, ‘This is a BC only event,’ and that’s when they explained to [my colleague] that they were plainclothes Boston College police.”

After Lykes told the police officers she had not been checking BC IDs, the officers called in the Chief of BCPD William B. Evans, she said.

In a statement to The Heights, University Spokesman Jack Dunn said event organizers were informed of the room’s capacity limits in advance.

“The capacity for seated events in the room is 90,” Dunn said in the statement. “BCPD are present at all significant campus events to provide security and assistance if needed. We are all pleased that the event was successful.”

Throughout the vigil, speakers referenced the presence of police.

“Look at this—we’re being criminalized,” said Ann Lucas, associate professor in the music department.

The vigil began with a prayer for peace from Oliver P. Rafferty, S.J., a professor of history at BC.

“While I appreciate the irony of a Catholic priest conducting the prayers this evening, given the tiny Christian population in Gaza, it is a privilege to pray with you and to pray for the people of Gaza,” Rafferty said.

All speakers emphasized the need for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“It’s time to say, ‘Stop the killing and the promotion of ideologies that permit it,’” said Joshua Snyder, assistant professor of the practice in theology. “To this end, there must be an immediate ceasefire.”

Lucas performed two songs during the event, “How I Long for Peace” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

“I’ve known so many Palestinians—as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve always had ties to them,” Lucas said. “So I have ethical responsibilities in this situation.”

In her speech, Associate Professor of History Dana Sajdi paid tribute to Refaat Alareer, a Palestinian academic who started the nonprofit organization We Are Not Numbers to tell the stories of Palestinian lives. Alareer was killed by Israeli forces, Sajdi said.

“Refaat Alareer, I live and I must live to tell your story,” Sajdi said.

April 25, 2024