Thursday, March 13, 2008


On Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008, at the University of Massachusetts, two white men kick in a black students window, insult him, verbally threaten him, call him "nigger", and force their way into his building. They assault him and break his nose. Police arrest the black man.

Justice for Jason blog gets more detailed:

"At approximately 4am on Sunday February 3rd two young women students visited Jason Vassell a fellow resident of MacKimmie in his dormitory room. Upon entering and finding the room “stuffy” one of the young women crossed to the window and raised the shades. She was astonished to find the face of “a large white man” pressed against the window and staring back at her. Asked by Jason to explain his presence outside his window the man (John Bowes) launched into a loud tirade of racial invectives and violent threats directed at Jason. Another man was observed outside the room and he joined in the abuse. Told to go away, the man became more enraged and kicked in the window. Understandably frightened, the two young women then left the room, and the police were called."

While awaiting the arrival of the police, Jason, feeling outnumbered and at risk, called a friend from a neighboring dorm for support. When his friend arrived Jason went to the lobby and not seeing his tormentors, opened the outside door. As his friend was entering the two intruders appeared from the side and entered the lobby. The big intruder assaulted Jason and broke his nose. In the ensuing skirmish both intruders were stabbed. The cops arrived, disarmed, restrained, and handcuffed Jason."

"The victim, Jason Vassell, sees that the beating will not stop unless he defends himself in some way. He uses the only thing he has on him tht might prevent them from killing him. Though he acted in self-defence, he is the first one to be arrested and now Jason Vassell is on trial for attempted murder."

Say what?

That's what several hundred students, faculty and others asked who turned out yesterday in protest of the assault on and the subsequent arrest of Vassell.

The chants of, 'Hate crimes have got to go! Hey-hey, ho-ho!,' 'What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!' and 'Justice for Jason! Justice for Jason!,' permeated over the UMass campus and garnered attention as the group marched.

Jason W. Vassell, 23, has pleaded innocent to two counts of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a knife) and two counts of armed assault with intent to murder, officials said, and is scheduled to appear in Eastern Hampshire District Court tomorrow in Belchertown for a pre-trial conference.

Police later charged John Bowes, 20, of Hancock, N.H., one of those white guys with civil rights violation with injury, assault and battery to intimidate with bodily injury, and disorderly conduct in connection. The other guy, Jonathan Bosse, has not been charged with anything.

The Committee for Justice for Jason said that Vassell was doing nothing more than defending himself and this crime is just part of a larger racial issue on campus.

"This could have happened to anyone," said Tracy M. Kelley, a senior and organizer of the rally. Kelley is Vassell's partner. Vassell has had to withdraw from the university, she said.

The rally also wanted to send the message "we do not tolerate hate crimes," she said.

Zane Barlow Coleman, a professor of biology at UMass who taught and knew Vassell said, "He (Vassell) is a survivor of a hate crime and a violent assault, who is being further traumatized by being isolated; from his partner, his friends, his academic studies, his community, the legal system and the excessive charges against him."

"I find that unacceptable. I find it appalling," she added.

Michael Thelwell, professor in the African American studies department said, "What took place here that evening at this University is something in which issues of justice, issues of fairness, issues of decency and the values in which we espouse as a community are threatened."

While the attack on Jason Vassell was the specific reason for the march and rally, it wasn't the only thing on people's minds.

"The hate crimes, the violence on campus, the ignorance and the lack of education around the issues of race, homophobia and sexual assault - need to stop," Student Government Association president-elect Malcolm Chu said.

Note: There is an on line petition you can sign demanding justice for Jason at

The following is from

Protesters: Black Student's Charges Unfair

Faculty and students at the University of Massachusetts rallied Wednesday in support of a black biology student who faces attempted murder charges after a white man allegedly taunted him with racial epithets, broke his nose and smashed his dormitory window.

About 200 people gathered on the steps of the student union in support of Jason Vassell, who authorities said stabbed two non-students after he was provoked into an argument at his dormitory early the morning of Feb. 3.

The two men, John Bowes, 20, and Jonathan Bosse, 19, survived the stabbings and were not immediately charged in the fight -- something supporters of Vassell, 23, note when they complain prosecutors were influenced by race in bringing the charges.

Vassell, who does not have a criminal or violent history, according to friends and faculty, was charged with two counts of armed assault with intent to murder and two counts of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Five days later, Bowes was summoned to court to face civil rights violations, as well as disorderly conduct and assault and battery charges. Bosse has not been charged.

"The behavior of the prosecutors would have been different if these two guys had been African-American," said Michael Thelwell, an Afro-American studies professor at the flagship state university campus.

Assistant District Attorney Frank Flannery said the charges are brought "based on the evidence we have" and said he could not comment further on the pending case.

Bowes' attorney, Alfred Chamberland, did not immediately return a call Wednesday. A message left at Bowes' home in Hancock was not immediately returned. A man who identified himself as Jonathan Bosse's father said his son would not comment.

Supporters of Vassell have created a committee and a Web site to raise money for his defense. They plan more rallies to keep up pressure on authorities to review the charges against Vassell, who has withdrawn from school and is living at his mother's home in Boston with electronic monitoring and a 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.

"Jason does not represent a danger or a threat to anyone," said his lawyer, David Hoose.

Hoose said since the fight, more information has come to light. He would not elaborate.

"Police made an initial decision on what they saw that morning, but now after talking to witnesses and seeing surveillance video, a fuller picture has emerged of what happened," he said.

Vassell was reacting in self-defense after Bowes and Bosse smashed his dorm-room window and called him racist names, said Tracy Kelley, who is Vassell's girlfriend. She said she did not witness the attack.

Vassell told supporters the altercation began when he noticed the two men outside his ground-floor window, Thelwell said, adding that witnesses have corroborated Vassell's account. The men began to taunt Vassell and broke the window. Vassell, feeling threatened, called a friend from a neighboring dorm for help. When he opened the lobby door, Bowes and Bosse entered, and a fight broke out.

Vassell suffered a broken nose and was treated at a hospital and released.

University police would not comment on why Bowes and Bosse were on campus.

Kelley said authorities are missing the big picture.

"When someone can threaten your well-being and safety and you can't defend yourself, you're skipping over something," Kelley said.

Graduate student Anthony Ratcliff, who spoke at Wednesday's rally, said the incident was indicative of wider societal problems where blacks are automatically assumed to be the perpetrators.

He recalled the Jena Six case in which six black Louisiana high school students initially charged with attempted murder after a 2006 assault on a white student. Charges were reduced, but the original counts caused complaints of harsh, racially motivated prosecution that led to 20,000 people marching in the town of Jena.

"This is not isolated or out of the blue," Ratcliff said. "There are similar incidents that happen all over the country," he said.

University spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said while he could not comment on Vassell's case specifically that the administration is "concerned with all episodes of violence on campus."

Vassell was scheduled to appear in Eastern Hampshire District Court on Friday. Hoose said he will ask a judge to change the conditions of Vassell's release.

No comments: