Immigrant Cause Draws Hundreds to Yard

Harvard walkout coincides with similar protests across the nation

"Anti-immigrant sentiment is in some ways as American as apple pie," History and Literature lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy ’93 implored heatedly to a crowd of immigrant rights advocates yesterday, urging them to act, saying "we cannot allow history to repeat itself."

McCarthy and about 10 other speakers addressed several hundred protesters gathered outside University Hall as part of the May Day Coalition’s efforts to voice their support for undocumented immigrants. Harvard University Police Department spokesman Steven G. Catalano estimated that around 300 to 400 people attended the protest, which was a part of a nation-wide walkout.

The Coalition, which was led by Cristina A. Herndon ’06-’07 and Michael A. Gould-Wartofsky ’07 organized the walkout to coincide with similar demonstrations that took place in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Speakers at the protest stressed the equality and solidarity of all people, regardless of their citizenship status, and emphasized how vital undocumented persons are to the fabric of America.

"It is you who will go to class with us tomorrow, and to work with us the next day," Gould-Wartofsky, who is also a Crimson editor, said to the group that extended across the yard.

Citing the prevalence of immigration issues in the nation’s history, McCarthy implied that more history professors should have walked out. McCarthy also laced his comments with criticisms of President George W. Bush’s immigration policy.

"Marginalizing and criminalizing of immigrants is un-American," he said. "It does not make America stronger, even though our government tells us that it does."

Other speakers included two undocumented workers, a Boston University (BU) student, local high school students, and a Harvard Divinity School professor. The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College also performed at the rally.

The walkout received positive reactions from the protestors, including Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America David Carrasco, who told the crowd that yesterday "was the most soulful day I’ve spent at Harvard, and I’ve been here five years."

Harlan M. Piper ’08 praised the rally, saying it "sends a really important message that at the most privileged institution in the world we can sympathize with the least privileged."

After the rally, Gould-Wartofsky called the walkout "exhilarating." Citing the short time spent in preparation for the event, Gould-Wartofsky said he was proud of the show of solidarity.

"We united as a new coalition, with hundreds of Harvard students, faculty and people from the community in just two weeks," he said.

Over the past few months there have been a series of immigrant-rights rallies that were spurred by the passage of House Resolution 4437, which would criminalize undocumented persons.

"My parents had the opportunity to come here and make a better life for themselves and their children," David H. Garcia ’09 said. "I wouldn’t want that opportunity to be restricted to future generations," he added.

The rally was also attended by students from MIT, Tufts, BU, Brandeis, University of Massachusetts at Boston, and Wellesley.

"A lot of other schools hadn’t planned anything on their own so they were happy to join us and make it a Boston-wide rally," said Silvana C. Alvarez ’06, another organizer of the event.

After leaving the yard, the protestors walked to Boston Commons join a larger protest.

On the way, protestors chanted slogans and reflected on the rally.

—Staff writer Benjamin L. Weintraub can be reached at bweintr@fas.harvard.edu.