College students protesting higher education costs are facing criticism after their demonstration Wednesday disrupted a service honoring fallen military personnel at the Massachusetts State House.
The Boston Herald reports that students were chanting outside the office of Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo when they were confronted by the families of those being honored at the event.
Gold Star family member Joseph Pollini told the demonstrators that they were “disrespecting” his family.
“This is supposed to be a somber event. It’s supposed to honor the people who aren’t with us anymore,” Pollini told the newspaper. “They have every right in the world to protest, as long as it’s peaceful and it’s keeping within a sound mind of respecting everybody around you.”
The disrupted event was an award service for 16 fallen military members receiving the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty. The medal is awarded to the next of kin of service men and women from the commonwealth who are “killed in action or who died in service while in a designated combat area in the line of duty or who died as a result of wounds received in action.”
After that run-in, the report says, the students stopped chanting, one of the demonstration’s leaders gave a speech about the group’s demands supposedly being ignored by the state legislature, and the groups left the building.
Zac Bears, executive director of Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, said that the group was completely unaware that the the protest was near such a solemn occurrence.
“The intention was never to disrupt their event or to anger anyone who suffered a loss like that,” Bears told the Herald. “Not to compare losses at all, but there is suffering going on and that’s why the students were here and we never want to bring that to anybody else.”
Bears’ group had been agitating for education funding reform at the statehouse for days beforehand.