Three Ann Arbor residents accused of disrupting a lecture on the Middle East were arrested at the Michigan League Thursday evening, campus police said.
Raymond Tanter, a professor emeritus at U-M and current faculty member at Georgetown University, was scheduled to give a lecture called, "Stalled international diplomacy and problematic U.S. military options for Iran." The event was organized by a student group, the American Movement for Israel.
Protesters stood outside the league entrance before the lecture and were asked to move, said Diane Brown, a U-M spokeswoman.
Inside the building, Brown said organizers repeatedly warned a heckler over the course of an hour as Tanter gave his talk. Finally, organizers asked police to remove the most vocal and abusive protester, a 47-year-old woman, Brown said. The woman was arrested after she refused to leave.
Police said several other people interfered with officers arresting the woman, and two of them were arrested. The names of the people arrested were not released, but the other two were a 49-year-old man and a 60-year-old man, Brown said.
"On our campus, freedom of expression is an extremely valued ideal and issue," Brown said. "We certainly encourage even vigorous dialogue but we also recognize the rights of scheduled activities to occur, so that is why we have the freedom of speech and artistic expression policy and guidelines."
Police plan to seek several charges against the three protesters, Brown said.
Henry Herskovitz, a frequent protester of Israeli policies in the Middle East, told The News that he was one of the people arrested. He called Tanter a "warhawk" and said Tanter implied that Iran should be attacked - a claim Tanter denies.
Herskovitz said he jumped onto the woman who was being arrested because she was being roughed up by police officers. He said an officer pulled him off, and he jumped onto her again.
"They were just hurting her for the sake of hurting her," he said. "There were enough cops there, they could have just picked her up and carried her out."
Brown said the woman used "passive resistance."
"The officers used an appropriate level of controlled technique to affect the arrest, and to keep her and others nearby and themselves safe," Brown said.
Tanter, who teaches a course at Georgetown on terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, said he had to abandon the power point presentation and "wing it" because of the protesters. He said he opposes using military force in Iran, but believes the United States needs to keep military options on the table to reinforce diplomatic solutions.
"I had an academic presentation, which I was not allowed to make because of the protesters," he said.
Tanter is the author of "Classifying evil: Bush administration rhetoric and policy toward rogue regimes," and "Rogue regimes: Terrorism and proliferation." He also served on the senior staff of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration.
Josh Berman, a senior and chairman of the student group, said protesters tried to "hijack" the event. Berman said Tanter took questions from some of the protesters and gave them an opportunity to speak, but some of the protesters insulted him.
"They were trying to hijack the debate to reflect what they wanted to get across," Berman said. "They didn't want to listen and they did not want to talk."
U-M policies say the university recognizes dissent but also recognizes the right of speakers to be heard. If a person continues to be disruptive after repeated warnings, he or she can be ejected from an event.
Reporter Dave Gershman can be reached at 734-994-6818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.