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Hundreds of Harvard students and affiliates gathered in the Sever Quadrangle Thursday evening for a silent vigil to mourn civilian deaths in Gaza and Israel and stand in solidarity with Palestine.
The vigil — organized by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and Harvard Graduate Students 4 Palestine — was postponed to Thursday from its originally scheduled date of Tuesday “due to credible safety concerns and threats against student security,” according to a post on the PSC’s Instagram.
Organizers required attendees to wear masks due to safety concerns at Thursday’s vigil.
The announcement to postpone came one day after student organizations received national backlash for signing onto a statement penned by the PSC that called Israel “entirely responsible” for the attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas. In a subsequent statement on its Instagram Wednesday, the PSC clarified that it “staunchly opposes all violence against all innocent life.”
Students affiliated with co-signing organizations have faced ongoing doxxing attacks in recent days, including a “doxxing truck” with students’ faces that drove through the streets surrounding Harvard’s campus on Wednesday and Thursday. University President Claudine Gay, Harvard Hillel, and the PSC have criticized the doxxing and threats to student safety.
PSC organizers wrote in a Thursday email publicizing the vigil that the gathering aimed “to offer a silent space of grief, as safely as possible” amid “an urgent time of deep unrest.”
The vigil featured anonymous recordings of student speakers, who did not appear in person due to safety concerns. Two in-person attendees also read the names of some of the Gazan civilians who have died.
Early Saturday morning, the militant group Hamas invaded and assailed southern Israeli cities near the Gaza Strip. The invasion left more than 1,300 Israelis dead, thousands more injured, and at least 150 hostages taken as of Thursday afternoon, according to the Israeli government.
Israeli forces officially declared war and have been retaliating with strikes on targets in Gazan cities, killing more than 1,500 people and injuring more than 6,600 people, according to Gazan health officials.
Gaza faces a spiraling humanitarian crisis as Israeli forces continue airstrikes and residents are cut off from food and fuel supplies. More than 330,000 people in Gaza have been displaced as of Thursday.
“We are here to mourn the loss of innocent human life. The fact that our mourning had to be postponed because this campus did not afford us the safety nor the space to grieve together reflects the larger sentiment of the administration distancing itself from us,” said an unnamed Palestinian speaker in a recording played at the vigil.
“We are scared to be Palestinian at this university,” the speaker added.
Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to comment on the vigil and referred to previous statements by Harvard administrators, including a Wednesday statement from University Executive Vice President Meredith L. Weenick ’90 that discussed increased safety measures and support for students facing threats.
Swain also pointed to Thursday video messages by Gay, who said Harvard would not sanction students involved with the statement and condemned threats against them, and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, who offered support and assistance to students.
Another Palestinian speaker urged attendees at the vigil to stand in solidarity with Gaza.
“Let us turn our collective grief into productive collective action for Gaza,” the speaker said. “The people of Gaza deserve resilient solidarity and unwavering support that does not shake in the face of accusations, threats, and fear-mongering.”
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