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Occupy Harvard Rally for Free Speech Targets Goldman Sachs Recruiting Event

By Amy Friedman, Contributing Writer

Occupy Harvard went head-to-head with Wall Street on Monday when protesters attempted to interrupt a Goldman Sachs recruiting event hosted by the Office of Career Services.

Nearly three weeks after protesters descended upon Harvard Yard to set up the Occupy Harvard camp, the group joined forces with Occupy Boston and other local students in a “Rally to Defend Freedom of Speech” on Monday afternoon, which eventually led to a confrontation with OCS.

About half of the 50 protesters broke off from the rally to visit a Goldman Sachs recruiting session, held at the On-Campus Interview Facility on Mass Ave.

Jasper N. Henderson ’12, an Occupy Harvard member and rally organizer, said on his way to the event that he was going to ask the recruiters “why [investors at Goldman Sachs] make so much money.”

When the group reached the OCS offices, ralliers stood outside the building for a few minutes, yelling, “Goldman Sachs, you can’t hide. We can see your greedy side.”

When two protesters attempted to enter the building using their Harvard IDs, they were denied entrance by HUPD officers and OCS officials stationed outside.

Officials told the students that they were not allowed to enter because the event had already begun, according to Sandra Y. L. Korn ’14, an Occupy Harvard organizer and a member of the Crimson editorial board.

When the protesters witnessed other students being granted entrance, they asked OCS Director Robin E. Mount—who was among the officials stationed outside the building—why they had not been permitted to enter.

“What [Mount] told me was that she didn’t want me to disrupt the event,” Korn said. “She said no, you’re not wearing the right clothes, you don’t have a resume with you. And I said, ‘If I come back wearing the right clothes, with a resume with me, will you let me in?’ And she said no and turned [her head away from me].”

“I think if I had gone wearing a suit and looking like the one percent they would have let me in,” she added, referencing the Occupy movement’s popular “one percent” mantra.

As ralliers began to dissipate, Mount told the remaining protesters that she respected the movement and the protesters’ right to free speech but she also respected “the other students’ right to look for a job if they want it.”

Mount declined to comment.

The protest began as a show of solidarity for the Occupy movements at the University of California at Davis and the University of California at Berkeley. Davis and Berkeley have attracted media attention after Davis campus police pepper sprayed student protesters and Berkeley police officers in riot gear used billy clubs and physical force to break up student protests.

The Harvard movement has largely focused on internal University issues, such as the custodian union’s contract and socially responsible investing. But Monday’s protest—which took place outside Harvard Yard near the Science Center so that non-Harvard affiliates could join—refocused on national politics and the broader Occupy movement.

“A lot of people are talking about how we are a college campus, [and] there are college campuses across the country where students are being pepper sprayed by the campus police,” said Korn. “We’ve been asking for HUPD to make a statement saying that they wouldn’t pepper spray us, and they haven’t done that yet.”

In usual Occupy fashion, ralliers used the group “mic check” to voice their concerns about police brutality at Davis and Berkeley, the University’s decision to restrict entrance to the Yard to Harvard ID holders, and government limitations on free speech.

After the mic check, Korn rallied protesters to march around the perimeter of Harvard Yard. The swarm of protesters chanted “show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like” as they marched.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize journalist and graduate of the Divinity School, spoke to protesters outside the Science Center and shared his opinions on the Occupy movement.

In his speech, Hedges stressed the importance of the liberal arts education and expressed concerns about the increasing focus on science and technical fields at Harvard, saying that Harvard has begun to transform into “a giant sort of engineering school with a few liberal arts courses.”

“I find that distressing,” Hedges said afterward on his way to a panel that would discuss his new book, “The Death of Liberalism.” “But that’s certainly the direction of the University and [the administrators’] response has been to isolate and shut down the movement as much as possible to avoid a public relations disaster.”

After Hedges concluded his speech, protesters quietly disbanded, many walking back to the Occupy Harvard encampment after flashing their IDs to guards at the gates to the Yard.

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