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More than 100 students staged a “die-in” demonstration in front of Memorial Hall during welcome remarks for Family Weekend to protest what they described as Harvard’s lack of support for Palestinian students during the ongoing war in Israel and Gaza.
After marching from the Law School’s library, Langdell Hall, students addressed the crowd in front of Memorial Hall to catch parents as they left Friday’s welcome event during a weekend of activities for family members of College freshmen and juniors.
“When the parents are coming out, we are going to do a die-in and we are going to show them that the students of Harvard care about Palestine and they are not afraid,” a speaker at the protest said.
Friday’s protest, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Committee and Graduate Students 4 Palestine, came after Harvard students and administrators alike have faced national backlash for their responses to the ongoing war.
More than 30 Harvard student groups first drew condemnation after co-signing a statement by the PSC holding the “Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” following the Oct. 7 invasion by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The statement resulted in intense backlash, including doxxing against individual students, which led the University to form a task force to support students experiencing harassment.
The protest also came as Israel announced an expansion of its ground operations in Gaza. Heavy bombing in the area led to an internet and communications blackout Friday.
The Crimson granted speakers at the rally anonymity for safety concerns.
Before the die-in demonstration, protesters condemned the University’s response to pro-Palestinian activism on campus.
“It blows my fucking mind to see that this administration still thinks we’re the public enemy,” said another student speaker.
Across several statements following the outbreak of the war, Harvard President Claudine Gay distanced the University from the groups that signed onto the PSC statement, while also stating that the University “rejects the harassment or intimidation of individuals based on their beliefs” and “embraces a commitment to free expression.”
Out of security concerns, Harvard also previously closed the Yard to visitors at night and began offering another shuttle on the Quad-Yard Express from 8 p.m. to midnight from Wednesday to Sunday.
Leaving the welcome address in Sanders Theatre, students and their family members watched the die-in demonstration.
David A. Goldberg, a parent of a junior at the College, said he was interested in learning more about the University’s response to student concerns presented at the protest.
“I would love to see a broadcast or streamed discussion between the student activists and the administration, where, if students have genuine concerns to raise, they should be able to hear from the University why the University can or cannot do something,” he said.
In an interview after the demonstration, a spokesperson for the PSC said the demonstrators wanted to be visible at Family Weekend in order to alert parents to potential safety risks faced by students on campus.
“It’s clearly a safety issue — and parents should care about the safety of their children — so we want to get in front of their parents and distract them momentarily from speeches by University administrators and have them focus on something that’s affecting a lot of kids at Harvard,” the spokesperson said.
Alex L.S. Bernat ’25, a Jewish student who watched the protest and heard students chanting, “from the river to the sea,” said he was “really appalled” by the “lack of truth.”
“My parents were here — I personally think they were appalled,” he said. “They should be — a protest that was supposedly, supposed to be a vigil of sorts, in reality was just calling for the destruction of Israel.”
The PSC spokesperson wrote in a statement that organizations like the Center for Constitutional Rights, a progressive legal advocacy group, have characterized Israel’s invasion of Gaza as “genocide.”
“Thousands of Palestinian children have died at the hands of Israel since the beginning of the month,” the spokesperson wrote. “Those are the facts.”
The spokesperson added that the group’s usage of “from the river to sea” refers to “the current plight of Palestinians not just in Mediterranean Gaza, but also in the West Bank, an area disconnected from the October 7th attacks that has, nonetheless,” seen more than 100 Palestinians dead.
The PSC and GS4P are hosting phone banking sessions each day this week at Harvard Law School to demand a ceasefire.
Clarification: October 31, 2023
This article has been updated to clarify that the student protesters alleged a lack of support of Palestinian students by Harvard.
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