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Boston man gets felony charges for dressing as hooded Iraqi
June 3, 2004 6:12 AM   Subscribe

Joe Previtera, a 21 year old student at Boston College, was arrested Wednesday and charged with felonies after dressing as a hooded Iraqi prisoner in front of a military recruitment center in downtown Boston. Previtera faces misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace and felony charges of making a false bomb threat and using a hoax device. The charges apparently reflect the District Attorney's concern that Mr Previtera might have been mistaken for a terrorist...
posted by tapeguy (65 comments total)

 
Further photos here.
posted by tapeguy at 6:17 AM on June 3, 2004


The charges apparently reflect the District Attorney's concern that Mr Previtera might have been mistaken for a terrorist.

Well that's just ridiculous. I mean, his face was masked. It's not like they could see his skin color or anything....
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:23 AM on June 3, 2004



So if Previtera didn’t mention a bomb, what exactly constitutes a bomb threat? "It can be implied, with fingers and wires — especially in a heightened state of alert, as we are," says Officer Michael McCarthy, Boston Police Department spokesman. And McCarthy thinks this is common knowledge, even if the wires are accessories to a costume.


Implied?!? WTF? If none of those police or military recruiters recognized the costume as being the Abu Gharaib guy, then hopefully a judge surely will, and this will be thrown out. It's sad that a peaceful protest has such massive overreaction.
posted by amberglow at 6:33 AM on June 3, 2004


...and i'm shuddering to think what'll happen in Aug. here for the Repub convention in terms of overreaction.
posted by amberglow at 6:33 AM on June 3, 2004


[repeats yet another stanza of TAPS for free speech.]
posted by PigAlien at 6:42 AM on June 3, 2004


...and i'm shuddering to think what'll happen in Aug. here for the Repub convention in terms of overreaction.

Remember Chicago '68?
posted by jpoulos at 6:50 AM on June 3, 2004


Police slap cuffs on Punk SMSer

A tech worker was arrested yesterday after a text message he sent was intercepted and traced back to his phone.
In a scene reminiscent of Neo's first escape from Agent Smith, Special Branch officers slapped the cuffs on Mike Devine at his office in Bristol yesterday, and took him away for questioning.
Devine, who plays in a Clash tribute band in his spare time, had sent a message containing lyrics from The Clash's Tommy Gun to his lead singer who had forgotten the words to the song.
According to The Sun, the message read:

"How about this for Tommy Gun? OK - SO LET'S AGREE ABOUT THE PRICE AND MAKE IT ONE JET AIRLINER AND TEN PRISONERS"

The arrest has prompted speculation about how the message was intercepted. Police maintain that Devine's message went astray. They say he actually sent it to a woman in Bristol by mistake and it was she who alerted police to the content.
However, The Sun also quotes Chris Dobson, a terrorism expert, as saying that the interception clearly shows that GCHQ is monitoring all vocal and textual mobile phone traffic.

posted by matteo at 6:51 AM on June 3, 2004


"There ought to be limits to freedom." - George W. Bush
posted by nofundy at 6:52 AM on June 3, 2004


I'm thinking that too, jpoulos--but will "the whole world is watching" hold true, as it was then?
posted by amberglow at 6:52 AM on June 3, 2004


I can't even comprehend this police reaction, other than as the result of Bushco's scare-mongering gone amuck.

Idiots. Fascists.
posted by mooncrow at 6:54 AM on June 3, 2004


Mooncrow: No need for a strikeout. The consequences of fascism are well-known. Anyone who behaves like a fascist is also an idiot.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:45 AM on June 3, 2004



/offtopic
Tenet resigns


posted by matteo at 7:50 AM on June 3, 2004


I bet Osama is rolling on the floor laughing in his BatCavern.
posted by elpapacito at 7:58 AM on June 3, 2004


I have just read about that little cell phone texting incident myself matteo, I bet that fucker blunkett is pleasuring himself as we speak, police state-tastic.
posted by johnnyboy at 7:59 AM on June 3, 2004


"If he has any questions as to why people think he may’ve had a bomb, then he needs to maybe go back to Boston College to brush up on his public policy. Or at least common sense, but they can’t really teach that there."

Do you think that Officer Michael McCarthy knows what satire is, or is that something else that they can't teach?
posted by daveg at 8:04 AM on June 3, 2004


I'm going to break from the herd and support the police treating this like a bomb threat and arresting this guy.

Free speech doesn't protect people who make jokes about bombs in an airport, regardless of whether the threat seems credible or not.

I don't see how police could assume that a silent hooded protester with wires leading to a box is not a nutcase planning to blow himself up, simply because the real Abu Ghraib prisoner he's mimicking had fake wires.

If Previtera had chosen to make his protest by dressing up as a fake suicide bomber, most people would agree that it crossed from speech to action and that the police had an obligation to send in the bomb squad.

I don't think he should be found guilty of a felony, but he deserves at least as much punishment as airport bomb jokesters.
posted by rcade at 8:30 AM on June 3, 2004


I don't see how police could assume that a silent hooded protester with wires leading to a box is not a nutcase planning to blow himself up.

It's actually an upturned empty milk crate; presumably the police could see right through, it but chose not to. It is difficult to tell from that picture, though.
posted by carter at 8:44 AM on June 3, 2004


If you were a cop, would you walk up to that guy to peer into the crate, or call the bomb squad? Knowing nothing about bombs, he could've been wired to plastic explosive in the crate or his clothing.
posted by rcade at 8:54 AM on June 3, 2004


Under what conditions does a protester not present a possible threat, using your standards for suspicion, rcade? Honestly, I'm at a total loss as to where you could possibly start drawing lines starting from your assumptions.
posted by furiousthought at 9:11 AM on June 3, 2004


rcade - that's a pretty sad, paranoid little world you're living in. I personally don't see how police could assume that a silent hooded protester with wires leading to a box is a nutcase planning to blow himself up - it's just not that common an event here, if you know what I mean.

Additionally, what exactly is the costume of a suicide bomber? What makes them readily identifiable to the police? I need to know so that I don't accidentally wear that costume someday and get the bomb squad called on my ass by people like you.
posted by Irontom at 9:16 AM on June 3, 2004


It appears JP really wanted to get arrested. He stood there for an hour and a half, waiting. Most of the time the police just milled about. If any of them were thinking outside their box (and about good stuff like freedom of speech) they would have just left him to stand there alone. That would have really thrown a wrench in his plans.

(I like his chutzpah: make a point and show how easy it is to get some people to do what you want.)
posted by mediaddict at 9:28 AM on June 3, 2004


Fuck you, Irontom.

Under what conditions does a protester not present a possible threat, using your standards for suspicion, rcade?

The conditions where a protester isn't wearing wires leading to a box.
posted by rcade at 9:38 AM on June 3, 2004


I'm with rcade. I dislike the military and I don't care for cops, but that guy's dumb to bring a box with wires protruding from it. If I had happened by that, I would have been a bit frightened.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:50 AM on June 3, 2004


rcade - you still haven't told me what clothing a suicide bomber wears. I really want to know how you'd identify one on the street - if nothing else, I'll make a whole ton of consulting dollars off of Israeli security forces .

~

"If I had happened by that, I would have been a bit frightened"

I'm sorry you'd be scared - like I said to rcade, that seems to me to indicate a pretty unhealthy mental space to be living in.

But, if we fall to the point of defining "acceptable" behavior strictly by the criteria that it not frighten someone (anyone), then we wind up with a mighty short list of things that are "acceptable".

There's a quote that applies here: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself". It came from FDR's first inaugural address, which is worth reading in it's entirety. It's a good antidote to the fear mongering that is such a part of our cultural experience these days.
posted by Irontom at 10:08 AM on June 3, 2004


>Knowing nothing about bombs, he could've been wired to plastic explosive in the crate or his clothing.

Take your meds. Seriously.

You can justify anything with that attitude. "Knowing nothing about crowd control it was best we shot the college students."
posted by skallas at 10:09 AM on June 3, 2004


It was an empty, overturned milkcrate, for crying out loud! Wires=bomb, now? That's nuts. Can I be charged for making terroristic threats for carrying around an opaque briefcase? After all, there could be a bomb in there. What if I also have a box cutter tucked into my pocket? I couldn't look any more like a terrorist, could I?

Anyone who claims to not recognize the scene that Previtera was portraying is either being ingenuous or has been living in a cave for the past month.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:15 AM on June 3, 2004


Boston Herald: "The young man's appearance was putting some passers-by in fear,'' David Procopio, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, said yesterday, "but we're not aware that he indicated he had a bomb.''
posted by tapeguy at 10:18 AM on June 3, 2004


The only thing he did wrong was stand on the wrong side of the political fence. If his sign said "Die Arabs" he probably wouldnt be charged with these ridiculous "crimes."
charged with two felonies: "false report of location of explosives" and a "hoax device."
Somewhere real crime and real terrorists are working at killing you, but it seems the police have better things to do, namely picking on college kids who are clearly making a protest.

This is another example of how our rights to free assembly and protest are getting trampled on. "Puppets? Those could contain bombs!" "Signs bigger than x by x? No way Jose!" "Their numbers are getting too large, start roughing them up."

"The free speech zone is three miles that way!"
posted by skallas at 10:18 AM on June 3, 2004


When I was in college, we called that kinda stuff "performance art."
posted by ilsa at 10:40 AM on June 3, 2004


... that's a pretty sad, paranoid little world you're living in ... people like you ... a pretty unhealthy mental space to be living in ... fear mongering ... take your meds ...

I love getting lectured on my "unhealthy mental space" by belligerent gomers who can't discuss an issue without needless personal invective.

I suggested the guy was guilty of a misdemeanor and calling the bomb squad was prudent. Clearly, I should be fitted for my jackboots.

What would a suicide bomber look like, Tom? One possibility is that he'd have something strapped to his chest like this:



Do you honestly think that if Previtera showed up dressed like that, it would be a First Amendment issue rather than a criminal matter?
posted by rcade at 10:52 AM on June 3, 2004


But Previtera wasn't 'showing solidarity' with suicide bombers, he was highlighting injustices shown to foreign detainees.

You seem to think they're the same thing, when they're not. That's some fucked up 'moral equivalency'.
posted by tapeguy at 11:02 AM on June 3, 2004


and i'm shuddering to think what'll happen in Aug. Oct. here for the Repub convention Holloween in terms of overreaction.
Boo!
posted by thomcatspike at 11:09 AM on June 3, 2004


The only reason I brought up suicide bombers is to show that there are forms of costume-based expression, which is what this guy engaged in, that would go beyond the boundaries of protected free speech. People dress like suicide bombers at political rallies in the Middle East all the time, so I wouldn't be surprised to read about a protester doing it here also. "Moral equivalency" has nothing to do with it.
posted by rcade at 11:10 AM on June 3, 2004


military recruitment center
Being on Federal property, would this be a Federal matter, instead of state/city?
posted by thomcatspike at 11:13 AM on June 3, 2004


> The only reason I brought up suicide bombers

Jebus, get off it rcade. Your lame strawman fell apart long ago.

If you cant see this as in the context of the larger issue of marginalizing and cracking down on dissenting opinions then I don't know what else to tell you.
posted by skallas at 11:22 AM on June 3, 2004


rcade: Fuck you, Irontom.

rcade: I love getting lectured on my "unhealthy mental space" by belligerent gomers

Who is the "belligerent gomer" exactly?
posted by skallas at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2004


It's obviously a crackdown on dissent, Skallas. But not all forms of dissent constitute speech, and I think there's a worthwhile discussion here in whether using bomb wires as a prop constitutes action instead of speech.
posted by rcade at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2004


P.s. You didn't rewind far enough.
posted by rcade at 11:30 AM on June 3, 2004


The police are correct to be concerned about suicide bombers, and anyone dressing up as the boy pictured in the photo above would be criminally irresponsible.

But in this case, the activist chose a completely different costume. The reference is obvious. There is no question of an explosive device. It's clear that the police arrested this student because of his political views, not because he presented any kind of threat, even imaginary.

Having said that, I don't think it's fair to pin the abuses at Abu Ghraib on the soldiers who come in through the recruitment office. The government is correct that the abuses are a result of a few "bad apples." Those "bad apples" just happen to be the civilians in charge of the Pentagon.
posted by Loudmax at 11:40 AM on June 3, 2004


...using bomb wires as a prop...

What the fuck is a "bomb wire"!?! Does any visible wire constitute a bomb threat? I often walk around with my iPod in my pocket, and if I don't have the earphones on, I'll tuck those in my pocket as well. A passerby would merely see a wire hanging out of my pocket. Does this constitute a terroristic threat?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:40 AM on June 3, 2004


rcade: whether using bomb wires

All wires are bomb wires.

Sir, your line of reasoning is excellent!

And an empty crate is a "bomb!"

I love this New America and its paranoid defenders. Maybe you dont like being called paranoid, but that's exactly the behaviour you are exhibiting.

sigh

>P.s. You didn't rewind far enough.

You sound paranoid to me, I don't see why you had to swear at Irontom. It seems to me that you personally started lowering the signal to noise ratio with your "Fuck you."

Anyway, I got some "bomb wires" I need to clean up in the garage and some "bomb crates" full of magazines, I mean "bombs" to throw away.

*salutes the New America*

Seriously, I'd be on your side if the kid called the bomb squad for attention, but thus far you've done nothing but support this ridiculous paranoid worldview and support oppressive tactics by the authorities.
posted by skallas at 11:41 AM on June 3, 2004


The indymedia link isn't working, and I can't seem to find any other photos on google, but, from the article:

He extended his arms like a tired scarecrow; stereo wires dangled from his fingers onto the ground below.

This article troubles me, because nowhere in the description of the scene does it imply that the wires do, in fact, connect to the box he's standing on in the picture, and it doesn't even look like it in the one photo. What we're going on for that is the word of the police department spokesman. Not sure who's reliable here.

From rcade:
The conditions where a protester isn't wearing wires leading to a box.

That's very clean and simple, but given your suspicions of what could be hidden inside an apparently empty milk crate - and I agree that it's possible - a policeman could assume that about nearly every possible prop. Actually, I'm not against having a bomb squad investigate suspicious things, but the arrest puts this clean over the school superintendent idiocy line.
posted by furiousthought at 11:52 AM on June 3, 2004


mr_roboto, from the article's report - it sounded like the police were making excuses for the arrest. When clearly they could have asked the guy to leave.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:05 PM on June 3, 2004


So I was not speaking with anyone, just trying to stay there as still as possible

I hope they go after the mimes next. Those silent twitchy little painted fuckers are undermining democracy. *And* they are ineffably French!

And when we have rounded up the mimes, let's get the satirists next, That terrorist stooge Jon Stewart will be first against the wall...
posted by meehawl at 12:09 PM on June 3, 2004


I just got a chance to see the Indy Media picture of Previtera. (The link earlier in this thread is broken.) It looks to me like the wires are attached to the crate.
posted by rcade at 12:12 PM on June 3, 2004


For those saying bring the bomb squad out, did they evacuate the block first? Which was not reported.

Not to say a cop should risk his life. Their job is checking out the cirmcustances first. You see two wires which ends could clearly be seen by a 360 degrees circumferance.
Do they shoot first when one wilds a knife.

If he has any questions as to why people think he may’ve had a bomb, then he needs to maybe go back to Boston College to brush up on his public policy. Or at least common sense, but they can’t really teach that there."
WTF
posted by thomcatspike at 12:17 PM on June 3, 2004


rcade, based on your logic, we should probably crack down on any person wearing a large, puffy jacket and using a device with "bomb wires" attached to it, such as a personal mp3 player (bomb) and who loiters in front of a building for longer than necessary.

I feel safer already.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 12:18 PM on June 3, 2004


Incidentally, part of Previtera's strategy at past recruitment center protests was to be arrested for civil disobedience.

From a March 2003 story in Boston College's student newspaper:
All 11 protesters were charged with disturbing the peace and bail was set at $40. Fuller-Googins posted bail and returned to the courthouse the following morning. Previtera decided not to post bail and spend the night in a jail cell. "I made my decision not to post bail to be in solidarity with the poor," he said. "Those who cannot afford to post bail should be able to protest, too."

Previtera spent the night sleeping on bed made of metal and concrete. "It was cold, and I was hungry because they didn't have any vegetarian options." The protesters who opted not to post bail were all put in separate single cells. This separation from the others, Previtera said, made the night more difficult. "The hardest part of the night was losing track of time," he said.

"I spent a lot of time thinking and praying," said Previtera. "There are many small things I took away from the night." He plans on spending the next year in Palestine working with the International Solidarity Movement, and felt the night was good preparation in patience.
Though wanting to be arrested doesn't necessarily mean that police were correct to arrest him, it's an interesting element of the story.
posted by rcade at 12:20 PM on June 3, 2004


From rcade's linked picture you can see through his garb which is a further view back than a closer view using a flashlight.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:24 PM on June 3, 2004


The problem is that the Boston PD are not following any sound form of logic.

If, as the police spokesman says, this is a failure of Previtera's common sense, then the officers who parked their cruisers and watched for several minutes without making an effort to evacuate the area--in advance of the bomb squad arriving--should be reprimanded, suspended, or fired for approximately the same failure of the senses on their part. Where was the effort to protect the public from what anyone with "common sense" would perceive as a bomb?

Did they in fact evacuate anyone--or does Boston PD have some new warning tape that stops shrapnel? Ex ante, they seem to have treated the situation very casually. Ex post, they contradict themselves with the claim of hoax, which seems to imply they believed he was a real threat at some time, but did nothing to minimize public harm.

What am I missing? If the cops were close enough to sit in their cruisers and watch him, then they were close enough to use their supposed common sense to realize he was a real threat and order the area evacuated (without even coming any closer to the bomb). If their supposed common sense instead told them Previtera was just trying to perpetrate a hoax and wasn't armed with a bomb, why didn't they just walk up and arrest him? These cops are just dumb.
posted by bafflegab at 1:59 PM on June 3, 2004


And the cops were mute or something? no one could have told him to move along, or asked him or his friends what he was doing there?
posted by amberglow at 2:04 PM on June 3, 2004


well, at least the cops did not cap his ass. Any of you brave fools want to try this, take your chances. come on asshats, standup to the man and put on your protest costume.
jebus, most of you people are idiots. what if this joker was standing on your sidewalk with a sign or protesting in the manner which warrants caution. most of you would cower, shut your curtains and hope this guy went away. or you may be foolish enough to join him, try and talk to him.

oh, and take you kids out there they may learn something.
posted by clavdivs at 2:29 PM on June 3, 2004


Guess what, clav? We're allowed to protest. It's our right as Americans. He was clearly dressed as the prisoner in the famous picture from Abu Gharaib, and making a political point about our armed services--it's his right. Our kids are learning something alright--to fear the free exercise of their rights as Americans.
posted by amberglow at 2:32 PM on June 3, 2004


guess what, he posed a menace and needed to be checked out. who knows what this idiot had planned. If you had children or were around many children you would know that children are not lack for expressing themselves and even proving to be a menace to society. sure, we all pull shit but kids today...no respect.
It is his right, it is also his obligation to suffer the consequences of a misdemeanor charge.

jebus, he looks like a scarecrow in shorts. real effective.
posted by clavdivs at 2:47 PM on June 3, 2004


Haven't been to college for some time, do they now offer a "public policy?"

what if this joker was standing on your sidewalk with a sign or protesting in the manner which warrants caution
My caution would come first investigating the matter seeing if the authorities are warranted. YMMV since I've been in similar situations. You think the recruiters trained in military tactics would be all over it if he was a real threat. No?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:51 PM on June 3, 2004


No - allowing kids to view it w/o first investigating the safety first.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:52 PM on June 3, 2004


it is also his obligation to suffer the consequences of a misdemeanor charge.

But that's just it--a misdemeanor only--not a felony or a bomb charge.
posted by amberglow at 3:01 PM on June 3, 2004


calvdias: "needs to be checked out" == "need to be charged with a felony" (as well as misdemeanor)

Your "kids these days" argument would be brilliant, if not so tired. I'm sure "kids" these days are the worst they've ever been, aren't they? He didn't break into their office and burn their records, did he?

jebus, he looks like a scarecrow in shorts. real effective.

Seriously, do you not know what he was trying (quite effectively, IMHO) to do?
posted by bafflegab at 3:04 PM on June 3, 2004


There's got to be a Godwin corollary for "won't someone think of the children?!".
posted by Space Coyote at 3:26 PM on June 3, 2004


OK the Indymedia link above seems to be working now: if you don't get it, i'll describe

You can see clearly two wires held in hand by the dude, the wires go to a plastic milk (?) crate whose interior can be seen , but not very clearly unless you close in..at least that's what I see in the photo.


So...let's buy the theory that such people is dangerous ..let's bend over and give benefit of doubt (even if a real suicide bomber wouldn't have waited for a second).

If we accept this theory, then we could accept that "suspicious people" should be stopped by police to be searched : takes 5 mins, it's an annoyance , but it's not so bad (of course, that includes searching of normally looking people, as the "evil terrorist" wouldn't just dress like that..it's obvious, it's too noticeable)

Now..ok the guy was searched, the bomb team was called because of wires (don't you DARE wear any wire on you..including ipods, walkmans, glasses with wires, any light emitting diode etc). Was bomb found ? NO. Why was he arrested ? Because he could look like a terrorist because of wires, but he wasn't.

How idiotic is that ? You know..you look like a bunch of mefites..and I spot some freeper behaviour too..mmmhh...oh and some of you got a F.U.G.W.B signs..mmhh..that means fuck you or free us ? I don't know you're under arrest.
posted by elpapacito at 5:08 PM on June 3, 2004


I just got a chance to see the Indy Media picture of Previtera. (The link earlier in this thread is broken.) It looks to me like the wires are attached to the crate.

thanks for the link, rcade, but i think you're mistaken. the wire on the right definitely is just hanging down on the ground, clearly apart from what is clearly an empty milk crate. the wire on the other side is not as visible b/c of the angle.

astonishing. i expected something a lot more suspicious. it's obviously a reference to Abu Ghraib, and i think everyone knew that. that's about as suspicious as me carrying a stereo receiver in front of City Hall with speaker wires dangling everywhere.

Having said that, I don't think it's fair to pin the abuses at Abu Ghraib on the soldiers who come in through the recruitment office.

i don't think that was his intention. he was simply reminding recruits what the U.S. Army can do to someone. i'm sure it convinced none of them, but it was a great stunt. hopefully this gets *lots* of exposure.

from interviews with the kid, i believe that he did not want to get arrested. he seemed quite surprised. i hope he gets a good lawyer.

in other Abu Ghraib-related news, the controversial picture that caused an SF gallery to be closed might end up in City Hall.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:10 PM on June 3, 2004


the wire on the right definitely is just hanging down on the ground, clearly apart from what is clearly an empty milk crate. the wire on the other side is not as visible b/c of the angle.

Actually, from the indymedia photos - now that they're up - it looks more like one length of wire that he's holding like a jump-rope, with the loop behind the crate. (Though each end is wrapped around a finger.) It's really too hard to tell.

Annoyingly, there don't see to be any pictures of the police's immediate reaction to the scenario. Most of it looks pretty casual.
posted by furiousthought at 7:49 PM on June 3, 2004


I was ready to be sympathetic to the cops and suggest that they might have been overzealous but that in a post 9-11 world, blah blah blah, but having seen the pics, it's completely fucking obvious that the guy is a protestor, or even performance artist, and not any sort of threat. Absolutely indefensible.
posted by mdn at 8:24 PM on June 3, 2004


Seriously, do you not know what he was trying (quite effectively, IMHO) to do?

look like an idiot?

I'm sure "kids" these days are the worst they've ever been, aren't they?

as a whole, yes they are.
posted by clavdivs at 8:37 PM on June 3, 2004


look like an idiot?

Effectively, yes. Since he was mimicking the humiliation-torture that Iraqi prisoners were put through.

Should he be wearing a suit?
posted by Space Coyote at 11:23 PM on June 3, 2004


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