Archive for September 10th, 2006

Machine guns drawn around him, Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami just arrived at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge for his speech at Harvard this afternoon

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At approximately 11:30 this morning >former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami arrived at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Mass.

>For a while last week no government agency–including Harvard and the Secret Service, would say how Khatami
would arrive in town and how his security would be assured.  A spokesman for the Boston Police said, “I think
he will take a cab from the airport–I understand that’s how this sort
of thing is done.”


>
Well, that
wasn’t exactly how it went down.  A friend was there a few minutes ago
and observed the whole scene.  She was shopping for vegetables at the
Sunday morning organic farmers’ market on the plaza in front of the
Charles Hotel.  Without warning a small army of very large black SUVs
drove heatedly up the street and massed in front of the Hotel.  People
did a double take:  Are those submachine guns pointed out the windows? 

My friend recognized the vehicles as unmarked US Secret
Service vehicles, jet black paint, no markings, deeply tinted windows.
Drivers in dark suits with earbuds.  Think Agent Smith in The Matrix. 
We know the drill from other visitors to our little town–but usually
the agents arrive with a motorcade of Massachusetts State
Police–missing this time. The guns were certainly an effective
substitute.

The >Secret Service >agents
were on high alert.  Numerous agents emerged from the cars and
surrounded the front of the hotel, with guns drawn, sweeping back and
forth over the crowd that quickly came to attention.  Imagine a few
dozen electified organic farmers, Cambridge moms, hotel guests and
Harvard Square morning tourists.

Khatami was in a middle
vehicle sandwiched between other SUVs.  He himself was sandwiched
between two Secret Service agents.  When a deep ring of vehicles and
agents was established around him, protecting a corridor into the hotel
entrance, he was wisked out of the car and into the hotel.  Nothing was
visible except the top of his black turban.

>

A controversy had been stirred about security for his visit, when Republican Governor Mitt Romney refused to provide Massachusetts state security, as is customary for such visits of foreign dignitaries.

 

“There are people in this state who have suffered from terrorism,
and taking even a dollar of their money to support a terrorist is
unacceptable,” Romney, a potential candidate for the Republican Party’s
2008 presidential nomination, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Romney
said that he expected the State Department at a meeting scheduled for
today to request a State Police escort and other traffic services, but
that he had called yesterday to inform them that no such services would
be provided.

Harvard defended the visit, saying,

“Given this critical moment in the Middle East, and the attempt by the
US and other nations to find a peaceful accommodation with Iran, a
visit by Khatami seemed very much in the tradition of the free exchange
of ideas that is a central part to the life of the University,” it said
in a statement. Khatami will give a lecture titled “Ethics of
Tolerance in the Age of Violence.”

>
Within a day of the governor’s refusal to help out, reason had prevailed in other quarters, and Boston and Cambridge agreed to make up for the state protection.

The Kennedy School of Government said today it had secured protection
for former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami when he visits Harvard on
Sunday, one day after Massachusetts Governor W. Mitt Romney ordered all
state agencies to refuse requests to provide security for the Muslim
cleric.

The
school will rely on support from the Boston and Cambridge police
departments, the U.S. State Department, and Harvard’s own police force
when Khatami delivers a speech on the “Ethics of Tolerance in the Age
of Violence” at the school’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at 4 p.m. on
Sunday. Tickets to the event are available via a
lottery that closes at midnight tonight.

>

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