Harvard Administrators Remove Last Remnants of Occupy Harvard Camp

Harvard administrators removed the last vestiges of the Occupy Harvard encampment from Harvard Yard on Friday afternoon. Administrators and Cambridge police cited potential safety hazards as reason to dismantle the weather-proof dome and information tent—the only structures remaining since the protest movement decamped in December.

On its website, Occupy Harvard called administrators’ decision to dismantle the dome “a direct reversal of their previously stated commitment to ensure free speech in Harvard Yard.”

Jeff Neal, a Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson, said that safety was the impetus behind the seizure of the dome and information tent.

On Friday, winds reaching 45 miles per hour caused the dome to move several feet and collapsed the tent, Neal said in an email, adding that the dome nearly struck a passerby as it started to careen across the Yard.

Derin Korman, a teaching fellow in Visual and Environmental Studies and Occupy Harvard supporter, said that he and other protesters removed the tarp covering the dome after the structure fell. Protesters then transported the tarp and the other loose objects kept in the dome to Phillips Brooks House for storage.

On its website, the Occupy Harvard group stated that protesters understood from a conversation with a grounds manager that they could keep the dome in the Yard as long as it was secured. They held an emergency general assembly in which they made plans to affix the dome to the ground.

But Director of Facilities Management and Operations Zachary M. Gingo and Associate Dean for Physical Resources and Planning Michael N. Lichten then approached the protesters and told them to remove the dome, Korman said.

When the protesters refused, Harvard employees disassembled and seized the dome. On its website, Occupy Harvard claimed that the workers were assisted by Cambridge police.

On that same day, the University had received a letter from the Cambridge Historical Commission claiming that the geodesic dome’s presence put Harvard in violation of a code forbidding structures erected on a historical site without a permit. A University official declined to comment on whether the letter influenced Harvard’s decision to remove the dome.

Neither Gingo nor Lichten could be reached for comment.

Neal wrote that the University will return the pieces of the dome once Occupy Harvard representatives make arrangements to retrieve them. Harvard has forbidden the protesters from erecting the dome on University property again, he said, but administrators plan to work with the protesters to find a new location for their information table.

With or without a physical occupation in the Yard, members of the movement said they will continue to make their presence known on campus.

“We are still here,” Korman said. “We will continue in various forms. It is definitely not the end, not nearly so.”

—Staff writer Nathalie R. Miraval can be reached at nmiraval@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction.

CORRECTION: JAN. 23, 2012

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article implied that Occupy Harvard protesters, including teaching fellow Derin Korman, were in the group’s information tent at the time their geodesic dome was uprooted by wind. In fact, Korman was in the Yard at the time and does not know whether anyone was in the tent.

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