At around 11 a.m. Thursday morning, a group of pro-Palestine Jewish students and allies occupied University Hall, beginning a 24-hour sit-in. The students, who numbered roughly a dozen at the beginning of the sit-in, were affiliated with Harvard Jews for Palestine, an unrecognized student group advocating for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
In a statement posted to Instagram, the group demanded Harvard administrators release a call for a ceasefire in Gaza, make a statement saying that antisemitism is not the same as anti-Zionism, and create a committee to investigate Islamophobia and suppression of pro-Palestine speech on campus.
Crimson photographers and reporters were there to document the sit-in, which was the second occupation of University Hall this year.
A little over an hour after the sit-in began, more than 20 people gathered in front of University Hall in a rally to support the occupying students. Students inside the building banged on the lower level windows of the building, chanting “Let them in.”
Students rallying outside University Hall were eventually joined by dozens of protesters from a separate demonstration at Harvard Law School.
More than 100 students and affiliates returned to the John Harvard statue for a second rally in support of the students inside the building.
As the sun began to set, Jewish and Palestinian students and campus organizers addressed the rally attendees. Harvard History professor Walter Johnson — who also signed a faculty open letter to Gay last week criticizing her condemnation of the pro-Palestine protest chant “from the river to the sea” — also spoke at the rally.
Protesters continued to gather outside of University Hall in support of the sit-in, speaking through basement windows with the demonstrators inside.
Protesters draped a canvas with the names of 6,679 Palestinians killed in the war in Gaza over the John Harvard statue.
After organizers said Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana rejected their three conditions to end the occupation, they decided to stay in the basement overnight. Other organizers outside dislodged a window screen that already had a slight gap to pass through food and personal items to the students inside.
Nine students participating in the sit-in posed for a photo through a basement window, sitting in front of a white board they had drawn on. Some of the phrases on the white board included “Free Palestine,” “Our safety is bound together,” and “#AbolishBorders.”
Several of the group’s supporters stayed throughout the night, with some opting to sleep on the sidewalk and others taking turns staying awake and observing police. In the morning, students drew slogans on the ground in front of the John Harvard statue.
While organizers had initially said they would stay in the building until their demands were met or they were arrested, they decided to depart after 24 hours. After exiting through a basement door in the back of University Hall, the organizers were met by applause from dozens of demonstrators.
“We stayed because our demands are more important than the University’s threats,” Violet T.M. Barron ’26, a Crimson Editorial editor and one of the students who occupied University Hall said to the crowd. “We stayed because we came to tell the administration that we will not stay silent while they continue to be complicit in apartheid, killing, and genocide.”