Military Presence Sparks Protest

Student protestors chanted slogans, waved signs, and conducted a “die-in”—lying on the pavement and pretending to be dead—outside of Soldiers Field Friday as part of a protest against the military’s presence at the Career Forum.

Organized by the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) and the Harvard Institute for Peace and Justice (HIPJ), about 30 protestors marched from Harvard Yard to Allston, shouting slogans along the way that criticized the military for its conduct in Iraq and its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which prohibits gay individuals from serving openly.

The demonstrators were met by a dozen counter-protestors from the Harvard Republican Club who called the peace activists “hippies” and told them to “stop lying about the military.”

Because neither group had obtained a demonstration permit from the University, no protests were allowed inside Soldiers Field. Instead, the peace activists protested on the small triangle of land on the southwest corner of Soldiers Field Road and North Harvard Street, while the Republicans stood on the southeast corner.

The colorful protest by the peace activists included a picket line, complete with a call-and-response. Later, protestors smeared themselves with fake blood and lied down on the pavement, slightly impeding the flow of students into the athletic complex.

When the day’s sporadic rain momentarily intensified during the die-in, one student shouted: “It’s only water. The people of Iraq have to deal with bombs raining down on them.” The rain did, however, succeed in driving off the Republican counter-protestors.

In addition to the SLAM and HIPJ activists, three “informally affiliated” protestors entered the Gordon Track and Tennis Center—the site of the career forum—in plain clothes, but changed into superhero costumes once inside. Clad as superheroes, the students attempted to enlist in the armed forces to protest its ban on openly gay soldiers.

The three were quickly escorted from the Soldiers Field complex by Harvard University Police Department officers.

HIPJ and SLAM also received some high-profile help Friday. Joining them at their event was the Green-Rainbow Party’s gubernatorial candidate Grace C. Ross ’83 and her well-known supporter, Dan “The Bagel Man” Kontoff, an erstwhile candidate for the Boston City Council and State House.

“Unfortunately, this is where our tax dollars are going—to military recruiting,” Ross said. “[T]he governor can have a big impact [by] recalling our national guard troops from Iraq. State’s rights is never used for progressive ends.”

The military will also be recruiting for its Judge Advocate General’s Corps at Harvard Law School tomorrow. But Lambda, the Law School gay rights organization, has planned comparatively tame protests in response.

Instead of holding a rally, the group plans to place pink toy soldiers and a fact sheet detailing the history of military recruiting at the Law School on the desk of every first-year law student. Lambda also plans to have a table where students can send letters to their representatives in Congress and urge them to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The military’s presence on campus has been a source of controversy since April 1969, when anti-war protestors stormed and occupied University Hall. In recent years, the battle over on-campus recruiting has centered on “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Solomon Amendment, a federal law that allows the Pentagon to withhold federal funds from any university that denies military recruiters access to its campus.

Legal challenges to the Solomon Amendment were dismissed by a unanimous Supreme Court in March. Harvard has chosen to allow recruiters on campus rather than forgo the more than $400 million in federal funds that the University receives annually.

—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at pbhayani@fas.harvard.edu