UPDATED: December 1, 2016, at 12:40 p.m.
Protesters gathered in the pouring rain outside Harvard’s Institute of Politics Wednesday evening to denounce the University for inviting advisers of President-elect Donald Trump to a campus event this week and to call for the dismissal of Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.
Bannon was scheduled to appear at an IOP event along with Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and some of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s advisers. A Kennedy School spokesperson said Tuesday that Bannon would no longer attend the event.
The Kennedy School has held similar campaign debrief events since 1972.
Harvard affiliates and local residents had planned to protest Bannon’s appearance Wednesday, and still gathered despite the news of his withdrawal from the event. The crowd of roughly 200 then marched down John F. Kennedy and Mount Auburn Streets, which Cambridge police kept closed for the duration of the demonstration.
With chants ranging from “Not my president” to “No Trump, no KKK,” protesters criticized Trump’s rhetoric, which they said has emboldened white nationalists throughout the country.
Harvard University Dining Services worker Edward B. Childs, who spoke at the protest, criticized the University for offering to host Bannon and Conway in the first place.
“The administration has no right to invite these people,” Childs said to applause. “This is our institution. This is our country. We’re not going to let them do this to our country.”
Although many protesters said they came from the Boston area, some Harvard undergraduates and faculty members also attended. Gabriel G. Hodgkin ’18 said he came to the protest because he felt compelled to repudiate what he said was Trump’s “hateful” rhetoric.
“I feel that as a Jew I need to stand up against hate,” he said. “And also as a Harvard student, I think we need to make it very clear that we won’t condone any form of hate.”
Vincent Brown, a professor of American History and African and African American Studies, said he attended the protest to support his students, many of whom were disappointed that the University invited Bannon to campus.
“They don’t think that this is a normal election,” Brown said. “They don’t think that Trump’s candidacy, his campaign was normal, and they don’t think that his presidency is going to fall within the normal course of American democracy.”
Brown said he wondered whether inviting Bannon to speak at the IOP went against Harvard’s core values.
“As a candidate, he lied, he lied aggressively, he lied frequently, and he lied seemingly without any kind of shame,” he said. “If Harvard’s motto is truly Veritas, is truth, we should be standing up for truth, and we should be standing up for truth in campaigning even as we’re standing up for truth here at the University.”
Kennedy School of Government Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf was slated to open the IOP event Wednesday afternoon. In remarks prepared for the event beforehand, he emphasized that inviting campaign strategists after a presidential elections is a long-standing tradition and part of the school’s “contribution to the political history of the United States.”
“We invite people who have significantly influenced events in the world even if their actions or words are abhorrent to some members of our community or are in conflict with the values of the Kennedy School itself,” he wrote.
Kennedy School spokesperson Doug Gavel declined to comment on the protest.
Not all protesters said they disagreed with Harvard’s decision to invite Bannon to the IOP event.
Kennedy School student Shanoor Seervai said “a large number” of students she protested with did not oppose the University’s decision to invite Bannon, but were instead upset by his appointment in the White House.
Boston University student Ibrahim Rashid, who is Muslim, said he was “fine” with the invitation but showed up to protest the rhetoric.
“Just shutting [Bannon] down I think only creates this divide that we’re seeing in this country right now,” Rashid said.
—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.
—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.
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