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Nearly 200 Harvard Students Hold ‘Die-In’ Protesting Airstrikes on Rafah

Nearly 200 students gathered on Widener steps demanding that Harvard disclose and divest its financial ties to companies
Nearly 200 students gathered on Widener steps demanding that Harvard disclose and divest its financial ties to companies By Sally E. Edwards
By Sally E. Edwards and Aran Sonnad-Joshi, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated February 12, 2024, at 11:05 p.m.

Nearly 200 students gathered on Widener steps to stage a “die-in” demanding that Harvard disclose and divest its financial ties to “companies complicit in human rights abuses towards Palestinians” on Monday afternoon.

After laying on the Widener steps, attendees recited Palestinian writer Refaat Alareer’s poem “If I Must Die” and played recordings of the names of individuals killed in Gaza before student speakers addressed the crowd.

According to Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine, the group organized the demonstration in response to Israeli airstrikes on Rafah on Sunday night.

“The Israeli Occupation Forces murdered more than 100 Palestinian the last ‘safe zone’ in Gaza,” HOOP wrote in a statement. “Harvard is complicit through its investments in Occupied Palestine, and we planned this demonstration to demand its divestment and disrupt normalcy during genocide.”

According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, Israeli airstrikes killed over 100 Palestinians in Rafah. The Gaza Health Ministry, run by Hamas, said at least 67 were killed.

HOOP, an undergraduate student group that calls for Harvard’s divestment from companies involved in the Israeli presence in Palestine, has been inactive for nearly two years. The group was originally founded by PSC members but now operates independently of the PSC, according to a Monday evening emailed statement from HOOP.

Harvard students gathered in front of Widener Library steps on Monday in protest of the airstrikes on Rafah.
Harvard students gathered in front of Widener Library steps on Monday in protest of the airstrikes on Rafah. By Sally E. Edwards

Violet T.M. Barron ’26, a member of Harvard Jews for Palestine, said it was “important to mobilize” after last night’s events and that she was encouraged by the number of students who attended the rally.

“The die-in went public the morning of, and then hundreds of people showed up,” Barron, a Crimson editorial editor, said. “I think that was definitely a testament to the power of student organizing and protests on campus.”

The event was publicized online by the PSC, as well as unrecognized groups including the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions caucus of Harvard’s graduate student union; the African and African American Resistance Organization; Law Students for a Free Palestine; and Harvard Jews for Palestine.

Currently, University policy prohibits officially recognized student groups — like the PSC — from co-organizing on-campus events with unrecognized groups.

During the rally, student speakers accused Harvard of attempting to silence student protestors.

“How can we work for this University, walk the campus of this University, or represent this University as the administration focuses on silencing us, rather than protecting us, or — crazy thought — doing something?” one student speaker asked.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the criticisms.

At the rally, organizers called on Harvard to disclose investments in companies “complicit in human rights abuses towards Palestinians,” divest from holdings in these companies, and reinvest funds in “Palestinian history, culture, and communities.”

Students with signs at Widener Library during the die-in Monday.
Students with signs at Widener Library during the die-in Monday. By Sally E. Edwards

“We must identify the connection between our university and this genocide,” a student speaker said. “We know Harvard is hiding these connections from us — this is why we demand that Harvard disclose and divest.”

“PSC is one of many organizations pushing Harvard to disclose and divest its holdings in companies complicit in genocide,” HOOP wrote. “The spirit of Palestine on campus is bigger than any one organization– even PSC.”

After student speeches, the group then marched through the yard, reciting chants including “Disclose. Divest. We will not stop, we will not rest,” and “Garber, Garber you will see, Palestine Will be Free.”

Students returned to the Widener steps and continued to chant, where a student organizer told the crowd that a member of the Harvard University Police Department informed him that he was “not allowed to use an amplifier” to lead chants.

“A police officer, and a representative from the College Deans Office shared with the organizer of the event that the use of the megaphone at that time and place was prohibited by the University’s Statement on Rights and Responsibilities, ” HUPD spokesperson Steven J. Catalano wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson.

An event organizer who spoke at the demonstration said HOOP plans to engage in further advocacy surrounding events in Gaza.

“This is not our first and this will not be our last action,” the organizer said. “We will be resisting repression and we will stand in solidarity with our siblings in Palestine.”

—Staff writer Sally E. Edwards can be reached at sally.edwards@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @sallyedwards04 or on Threads @sally_edwards06.

—Staff writer Aran Sonnad-Joshi can be reached at aran.sonnad-joshi@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @asonnadjoshi.

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