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Felony Charges for Abu Ghraib Protest

On June 11, 2004, The Boston Globe reported, "The Suffolk district attorney's office has dropped charges against a Boston College junior arrested last month while protesting in front of a downtown military recruiting center by mimicking a photograph taken at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. . . . Previtera, who was among the protesters arrested in February 2003 during a rally in front of a different military recruiting center in Boston, said he is considering filing charges against the police for making an unlawful arrest. He said he would appreciate an apology from the police department."

Democracy Now!, Jun. 3, 2004

Photo: Joseph Previtera, protesting American abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, Boston, May 26, 2004.

A 21-year-old college student could spend years in jail on bomb threat charges after he stood silently outside a military recruitment office dressed like an Iraqi prisoner: in a black cape, hooded, wearing stereo wires hanging from his fingers. The police charged Joseph Previtera with making a bomb threat since the stereo wires resembled wires to a bomb.

An article in today's Boston Phoenix begins like this:

It was a skinny pair of stereo wires that got 21-year-old Joe Previtera charged with two felonies. A week ago on Wednesday, the Boston College student poked his head through a gauzy shawl, donned a black pointy hood, and ascended a milk crate positioned to the right of the Armed Forces Recruitment Center's Tremont Street entrance.

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

Without those wires, the Westwood native could have been mistaken for an eyeless Klansman dipped in black, or maybe even the Wicked Witch of the West. . . .

But those snaky cords made the costume's import clear: Previtera was a dead ringer for one of Abu Ghraib's Iraqi prisoners - specifically, the faceless man who'd allegedly been forced to balance on a cardboard box lest he be electrocuted.

Prvitera stood outside the recruitment center for over an hour. And then the police arrived. Within hours he was facing charges more serious than any U.S. soldier is facing for their role in the actual prison abuse in Iraq. Previtera was charged with three crimes: disturbing the peace, possession of a hoax device and making a false bomb threat. If convicted he could face years in prison.

The Boston Herald reported on Wednesday that prosecutors in the Suffolk County District Attorney's office are considering 'amending' bomb-threat charges against Previtera.

But the Boston police have defended the arrest:

Michael McCarthy, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department told the Boston Phoenix: 'It can be implied, with fingers and wires - especially in a heightened state of alert, as we are. Mr. Previtera should know better. He's a young adult educated at Boston College from a wealthy suburb. I'm sure he knows wires attached to his fingers, running to a milk crate, would arouse suspicion outside a military recruiters' office [when he's] dressed in prisoner's garb. 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.'