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Police tactic, photo anger students

Some students wept, and others raised voices in anger yesterday as they sat in a circle of desks in a dimly lit theater and remembered 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove, the Emerson College junior killed by a pepper-powder round fired by police.

Close to 100 Emerson students, faculty, and administrators attended a private meeting on campus yesterday to talk about the death of Snelgrove. She died early Thursday after police shot her in the eye with a pepper-powder-filled plastic pellet during the melee near Fenway Park after the Red Sox won the American League pennant.

As they sat in the Bordy Theater, a few speakers urged the group to focus on happy memories of their friend, an aspiring broadcast journalist who commuted to classes from her home in East Bridgewater. But a larger number of students expressed their ire toward the police for using crowd-control tactics that led to the tragedy and toward the Boston Herald for publishing a large front-page photo of the bleeding Snelgrove yesterday.

''You need to remember how angry and hurt you feel right now, and never do that to somebody else," graduate student Melissa Muntz, 25, urged her journalism classmates at the meeting. ''People need to remember the outrage they feel and take that with them."

Classes were canceled for the day because of Snelgrove's death. The gathering drew dozens of students from Emerson's journalism program, where Snelgrove was an energetic, good-natured contributor, classmates said.

Later in the afternoon, Muntz and other journalism students held a hastily arranged press conference and pleaded with local news organizations to ''remember this is a human being; it's more than just a story."

Muntz said she had spoken with several classmates who are having second thoughts about studying journalism because of the coverage. ''I'm telling them to work twice as hard to change things," she said. ''I'm saying, don't let this win."

In a public statement of apology yesterday, after facing repeated criticism from readers and public officials, Herald executives acknowledged that the newspaper went too far.

During the college meeting, Emerson students also expressed outrage at the use of the pepper-powder pellets by police, who fired them into the crowd without using bullhorns or whistles to first warn bystanders, according to students who witnessed the chaotic scene on Lansdowne Street.

Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole said Thursday that she accepted responsibilities for any errors, but blamed the actions of ''punks" for turning the victory into violence. Yesterday, she said that authorities were considering eliminating compressed-air guns from their crowd-control arsenal for the World Series.

''The idea that property or keeping control is more valuable than a person's life is the most backward way of thinking imaginable," said Jessica Posner, 18, a freshman from Brookline who attended yesterday's meeting. ''Any moral code will tell you the most sacred thing is a human life."

Although classes were not in session, small groups of students discussed Snelgrove's death outside a classroom building on Boylston Street. Others attended grief counseling sessions on campus. Emerson's trustees gathered for a previously scheduled meeting yesterday, but quickly voted to adjourn out of respect for Snelgrove's memory, a spokesman said.

Jenna Russell can be reached at

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