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Protest is Inconvenient

By Patrick C. Barham Quesada
Patrick C. Barham Quesada ’21, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Pforzheimer House.

On Saturday, a group of students from both Harvard and Yale stormed the field during halftime at the 136th edition of “The Game.” The protest started small, with about 70 students, but gained up to 500 and extended for the better part of an hour.

The protest sparked discussion on social media about the impropriety of interrupting the game even before it ended. The Harvard-Yale game, after all, represents the culmination of student athletes' efforts for the entire year. For two teams that elect not to participate in post-season bowl games, this is their bowl game. And a 48 minute break inevitably throws you off.

Physically, your muscles start to cramp up. Mentally, your mind can lose focus. Game wise, the momentum that Harvard had before the half is broken and lost. That’s why for the players and the fans coming from all around the world for this event, the protest was inconvenient.

If you were one of the many students from our college that traveled from Cambridge for this event, the protest meant that you were out in the cold for much longer then you likely wanted to be, and it meant that in the eyes of some fans, The Game was ruined, politicized, or disturbed by the movement.

But good protests are inconvenient.

Protests do not happen when it is best for everyone. They do not accommodate others’ schedules or seek to minimize their disturbance. They’re loud, they’re broadly supported, and, most importantly, they’re clear in their message. Those elements were all met by Saturday’s protest.

Protests don’t always follow the law, either. Most of the students who stormed the field should have known full well that such an activity was grounds for arrest and possible disciplinary action, and some were arrested or given citations for disorderly conduct. However, in their minds and in mine, that’s okay.

It’s okay because sometimes, when you break the law, you can bring attention to a cause and elevate its importance. After a series of protest actions organized by the student group, all of which have been peaceful and all of which have been met with no action by the University, it becomes increasingly necessary to step outside of the legal and quiet channels that you’ve been using and make enough noise for people to take notice.

And it worked — people noticed Saturday's protest.

Within a few hours, major news outlets picked up this story and were making it national news. Celebrities and politicians were retweeting the pictures, posts, and videos from the protest and extolling the students’ activism as representative of the leadership that we need on an issues as crucial as climate change and divestment.

The protest elevated divest from a campus story to one of national importance. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the protest, their claims, or their tactics, it is clear the protest worked.

We’re now set to see what the reaction of Harvard administrators will be. Up to now, that reaction has been filled with many words and statements but much less action. Very likely, they will continue to drag their feet on this issue, but on Saturday, Divest Harvard showed their willingness to take big action like never before and to persist on this issue until the causes of their protest are addressed.

We should all be proud that our classmates’ protest embodies the spirit of nonviolent activism — a spirit that has a long and decorated tradition in the cloth of American democracy and a spirit that has been critical to bringing about social change in the past.

If the administration won’t be a leader on climate change and divestment, it’s good to know that students are ready to pick up the torch and be the next generation of leaders. But as far as the protest: claims that the action was too inconvenient or that it was in the wrong place fall empty.

As we head into the last stretch of the semester, we are also faced with an impending strike by graduate students across the University. Then, too, we might hear students and others voice their concerns that the strike — another protest — is coming at an inconvenient time or that it is disrupting campus.

Of course it will be inconvenient, it’s a protest.

And it might mean being a little colder, not getting grades back right away, or thinking about politics on a day many planned not to, but for meaningful change to come, we must sometimes accept disruption, accept inconvenience, and understand that these are the costs of change.

Patrick C. Barham Quesada ’21, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Pforzheimer House.

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