University doctoral student arrested in highway protest
A Brandeis doctoral candidate in Computer Science was among the Black Lives Matter protesters arrested on Interstate 93 on Thursday.
Jessica Lowell, 29, was arrested in Medford, Mass. and charged with disorderly conduct, trespassing and conspiracy, according to Patch.com. Lowell, along with the 28 other protesters arrested, was released on personal recognizance and is due back in Somerville District Court on Feb. 9.
The protesters blocked parts of the highway near Boston during the morning commute by forming human barricades. As traffic wound to a halt, some of the protesters chained themselves to barrels full of concrete.
Lowell said in an interview with the Justice that she was attending as a street medic, providing first aid. “I wasn’t involved with planning, I wasn’t locked down and I wasn’t on the road, I was there to provide first aid, and advocacy around first aid to people who were there,” she said.
Lowell added that some protesters were injured by police during the protest. During the approximately five hours she spent in jail, Lowell said she treated some protesters by making slings and swaths from sweaters and finding ice for injuries.
She said that she and her fellow protesters are being represented by the National Lawyers Guild.
Prof. Jordan Pollack (COSI), chair of the Computer Science department and Lowell’s adviser, said that Lowell is studying evolutionary computation, specifically the evolution of modular mechanisms.
“Like many students attracted to Brandeis, Jessie has a very strong interest in social justice and uses her extracurricular time fighting and speaking for the disenfranchised and for Tikkun Olam [the Hebrew phrase for “healing the world”],” wrote Pollack in an email to the Justice. “I am sorry to learn she was arrested at the #BlackLivesMatter protest.”
The protesters were split into two groups, one in Medford and one in Milton, Mass. In Milton, the protesters blocking traffic forced an Easton, Mass. ambulance to divert its patient, a man injured in a single car crash Thursday morning, to a local hospital instead of the original destination, Boston Medical Center, a Level 1 trauma center.
According to the Boston Globe, the protesters issued a statement on Thursday, saying that they had “shut down Interstate 93 southbound and Northbound during [the] morning rush hour commute into Boston to ‘disrupt business as usual’ and protest police and state violence against Black people.” The statement went on to name 20 people of color killed by law enforcement officers in Boston over the last 15 years.
“The two groups of activists organized these actions to use their collective voices to resist and disrupt the overarching system that oppresses black people and to expressly accept the responsibility of white and non-Black people of color to organize and act to end racial profiling, unjust incarceration, and murder of Black people in the United States and beyond,” the statement read. “Black lives matter, today and always.”
Lowell received her undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to her LinkedIn page, and studied at Tufts University and Northeastern University before beginning the doctoral program at Brandeis, which she is expected to complete in 2016.