Activists cleared on disorderly charges

February 6, 2009
By

DAVID TABER

HYDE SQ.—Seven activists in the Boston chapter of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) were acquitted in a Jan. 28 jury trial of disorderly conduct charges stemming from a confrontation on a Hyde Square sidewalk in October.

In a Gazette interview, the defendants in the trial at JP’s West Roxbury District Court claimed, among other things, that they were not eating sandwiches they had brought to a Hyde Square café.

The charges against the activists, who call themselves “the Hyde Square Seven,” stemmed from an Oct. 21 incident outside the June Bug Café at 403 Centre St.

The activists were not protesting on the sidewalk, according to Kathleen Feyh, one of the Hyde Square Seven, but were attempting to wrap up a meeting.

The defendants’ and police accounts of the circumstances leading up to the arrests differ widely. Accord-ing to the police report, prior to police arrival on the scene, June Bug proprietor June Nguyen said she had observed the activists eating food they had brought to the café and repeatedly asked them to leave.

“The caller (Nguyen) stated that the group entered her restaurant bringing their own food and drink. The caller further stated that she asked the group to leave if they were not going to enter the establishment as customers.”

According to the police report, Nguyen said the group only agreed to leave after she called the police.

In a Gazette interview, Kathleen Feyh, one of the Hyde Square Seven, disputed most of that characteriza-tion of events. The group had purchased drinks at the café, and was not eating the outside food it brought, but rather distributing sandwiches one of the ISO members had brought to the meeting from a work function. Members planned to eat the sandwiches later, she said.

Feyh said they left immediately when asked.

When the Gazette attempted to contact Nguyen for comment, an employee at the June Bug said Nguyen was out of the country. The employee said she did not know when Nguyen would be back.

The ISO members were arrested for disorderly conduct when police arrived on the scene and found the ac-tivists on the sidewalk outside of the café.

Feyh said the activists were reluctant to move from the public sidewalk or to show identification cards at the request of the police. “We didn’t want to set a precedent, because we are activists, whereby the police could tell us to move off of public property,” she said.

Feyh disputed allegations in the police report that the group was blocking the sidewalk, and said that they dispersed into smaller groups after an initial request from the police.

Despite their initial reluctance, the activists offered the police their identifications after the first of them was arrested, she said.

The report alleges that the activists were “uncooperative with officers. They ridiculed and belittled the officers and generally conducted themselves in a manner that was unruly and boisterous.”

The report confirms that the activists split into smaller groups after being warned by officers about blocking the sidewalk. It also alleges that the disruption caused a crowd of onlookers to congregate on the sidewalk.

Prior to the Jan. 28 jury trial, the activists sought to have the charges dropped twice, she said. “I am still shocked they spent the money on the trial,” she said.

Suffolk County District Attorney spokesperson Jake Wark said, “The Commonwealth’s case was severely hampered by the fact that a key witness did not appear.”

Two of the seven activists—Thomas Arabia and Rebecca Bor—are Jamaica Plain residents. In addition to Feyh of Roxbury, the group included Akunna Eneh of Roxbury, Keith Rosenthal of Somerville and Brian Kwoba and Aleana Mehta of Cambridge.