Police investigating assault at end of college protest
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Police Department have been brought into the investigation of the violence that ended last week’s protest at Middlebury College against controversial author Charles Murray.
Middlebury College Professor Allison Stanger’s hair was pulled and neck was injured by protesters Thursday evening as she and College Vice President for Communications Bill Burger escorted Murray to a car after his appearance at McCullough Student Center. She was treated at Porter Hospital and released.
“Police investigators are working with college officials on reconstructing the incident at Middlebury College in which Professor Stanger received injuries,” Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley said in a statement to the Addison Independent. “At the conclusion of this reconstruction the police will determine a course of action.”
Murray is a political scientist who has been criticized for his views on race and intelligence. A scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a right wing think tank, he was invited to speak on campus by a student group, the American Enterprise Institute Club. Murray’s best-selling “Coming Apart,” the intended topic of his Middlebury appearance, was described as one of the most important books of 2012 by New York Times columnist David Brooks.
He was greeted late Thursday afternoon outside McCullough Student Center by hundreds of protesters, and inside Wilson Hall, students turned their backs to him and booed when he got up to speak.
Murray was moved to another location in McCullough and the administration attempted to live-stream an exchange of ideas between Murray and Stanger.
According to Burger, violence erupted as he and Stanger escorted Murray out of McCullough Student Center, sometime after 7 p.m. According the Burger, “they were physically and violently confronted by a group of protestors.”
With help from campus safety officers, Burger said that Stanger and Murray were able to get into his car and get away, but not before “one of the demonstrators pulled Prof. Stanger’s hair and twisted her neck.” She wore a neck brace the next day and couldn’t teach her classes.
Burger said those involved in the incident were masked, and he believed that some were some were students and some were not.
In an account on her Facebook page, Stanger described the event: “We confronted an angry mob as we tried to exit the building. Most of the hatred was focused on Dr. Murray, but when I took his right arm both to shield him from attack and to make sure we stayed together so I could reach the car too, that’s when the hatred turned on me. One thug grabbed me by the hair and another shoved me in a different direction … I feared for my life.”
In Murray’s account of the confrontation outside the car, he said there were perhaps 20 protesters, though it felt like more.
An anonymous account published on the campus blog “Middbeat” gave a very different account of events.
“In recounting the events of Thursday night, it is essential to emphasize that protesters did not escalate violence and had no plan of violent physical confrontation,” the statement said. When asked by the Independent to identify themselves, the anonymous bloggers declined.
Hanley said his department had talked with college officials before Murray’s arrival on campus and agreed that town police would not get involved unless someone was hurt or there was property damage, neither of which happened during the bulk of the afternoon’s activities.
“It was their event and we stayed out,” Hanley said.
Nevertheless, there was a plainclothes Middlebury town police officer on campus during the principle protest, but the officer left before the violence began, Hanley said.
As of Monday, Hanley and the Middlebury town police were still awaiting a report from the college of a crime to investigate. He said his department had reached out to college officials and to Stanger. He issued the statement about reconstructing the events on Wednesday afternoon.
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