On Sunday Oct. 14, 2018, Harvard split into two parallel universes.
Around 11 a.m., hundreds of students, alumni, and locals began massing in Harvard Square to show their support for the College’s race-conscious admissions policies. Rally-goers lofted signs reading “#DefendDiversity,” sang along to “Ain’t No Mountain high Enough,” and donned blue T-shirts decorated with University seals and the motto “Diversitas.”
One hour later and four miles away across the Charles River, hundreds more students, alumni, and locals gathered in Copley Square to affirm their belief that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants. Demonstrators plastered themselves with stickers and hoisted posters asking Harvard to stop using “Asian quota[s]” to show support for Students for Fair Admissions, an anti-affirmative action advocacy group that sued the University in 2014 over allegations its admissions process is racially discriminatory.
The dueling rallies took place one day before SFFA’s four-year-old lawsuit went to trial in Boston in a highly anticipated showdown that will likely shape the fate of affirmative action in the United States.
Both protests stretched for hours, saw multiple speeches from activists and Harvard students and alumni, and made one thing absolutely clear: when it comes to the admissions suit, divisions run deep.
The Crimson sent a team of journalists to spend the day chronicling both rallies. Below, relive a tumultuous 24 hours in Cambridge from behind the photographer's lens.
At 11 a.m., pro-College demonstrators began gathering near the Harvard Square T stop. Many dressed in special “Diversitas” t-shirts and clutched signs reading “#DefendDiversity.”
Above: Gregory Davis, a doctoral student in the African American Studies Department of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, takes the stage in Cambridge. Below: Thang Q. Diep '19, a Vietnamese College student who submitted his marked-up college application in court in an effort to defend the University, speaks at the Harvard Square rally.
The Copley Square demonstration kicked off at 12 p.m. when Harvard students, alumni, and locals began gathering outside Trinity Church. Many brought along their own signs.
Above: Edward Blum, the president of SFFA, mounts a stage erected in front of Trinity Church to address the hundreds-strong audience in Copley. He told the crowd that allowing the consideration of race in the college admissions process “ultimately fray[s] the social fabric of a nation.” Below: Pro-SFFA demonstrator Zhi Jiang (bottom photo) paid close attention to Blum’s words.
Back in Harvard Square, two protesters took a quick break from protesting to confer and crack a joke or two.
After rallying by the T-stop, pro-Harvard demonstrators marched from the Square to Cambridge Commons, chanting along the way. “No justice, no peace!” some shouted.
Meanwhile in Copley Square, protesters mostly stayed stationary.
Once they reached Cambridge Commons, some anti-SFFA demonstrators raised their fists and posed for photos to show their support for affirmative action.
Pro-SFFA protester Shelly Lee (above) and pro-Harvard demonstrator Jade O. Woods ’22 (below) offer a study in contrasts.
Edward Blum (far right) speaks to members of the press in Copley Square.
Pro-Harvard protesters march through Cambridge.
Several hours into the demonstrations Sunday, things got political. Members of Chinese Americans for Trump — a partisan group not affiliated with SFFA — showed up apparently uninvited to the Copley Square rally.
Their arrival drew mixed reactions; at times, arguments broke out between members of Chinese Americans for Trump and other SFFA supporters.
The protesters dispersed and returned to their homes late Sunday afternoon. By the next morning, the scene belonged to lawyers for both Harvard and SFFA. The attorneys stepped into the Boston courthouse — and possibly history.