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More than 150 Harvard students and affiliates gathered in the Science Center Plaza Thursday afternoon to demand the University “disclose and divest its ties to the Israeli occupation.”
The protest — jointly organized by six pro-Palestine student groups — included a march around the plaza and speeches from members of Law Students for Palestine; the African and African American Resistance Organization; and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions caucus of Harvard’s graduate student union.
During the rally, participants were encouraged to call senior members of Harvard’s administration to demand transparency in its financial investments and an end academic partnerships with Israeli universities, among other demands.
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the criticisms and demands.
Israa M. Alzamli, an organizer for Law Students for Palestine who spoke at the rally, said in an interview afterwards that the rally was planned to “make sure that people’s eyes are staying on Gaza” and holding the University accountable for its “complicity within the genocide.”
Alzami said that while some people “might think that things are dying down,” the protest organizers were “trying to emphasize that they’re not.”
Nasrien E. Ibrahim — an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and member of Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, a newly-formed pro-Palestine advocacy group — said during the rally that campus and classrooms “must be an open and welcoming space” for teaching and learning about issues surrounding Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East.
“Therefore, as educational workers, we call on Harvard to reject funding from donors attempting to control or censor on-campus speech or course curriculum.” Ibrahim said. “We also call on Harvard to stop accepting donations conditioned upon the suppression of ideas and expression on campus.”
During the rally, a small group of counter-protesters held up Israeli flags and signs that read “Condemn Hamas Terrorism” and “Anti-Zionism is Racism.”
Genia Lukin, a Harvard graduate student in Psychology, said she was counterprotesting to show support for pro-Israeli students who feel isolated on campus.
“I’m really here because I want people who are Jewish, Israeli, pro-Israeli to see that we exist,” she said. “People have been feeling very alone at university who are Jewish and Israeli.”
A group of South Korean demonstrators — who said they came to Harvard to protest for human rights in North Korea — joined the counter-protesters, preaching to the crowd and singing along to Christian music.
Lukin said the South Korean protestors were unaffiliated with their counter-protesting efforts.
Alzami, the Law Students for Palestine organizer, said she was “happy to see people come out” despite “admin coming down and constantly changing rules and trying to make it impossible for protest and dissent to happen.”
In emails sent to affiliates Jan. 19, interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 — alongside 15 other Harvard deans — warned students against forms of protest that violate University policies. Three days later, on the first day of the spring semester, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana followed up with another email to undergraduates emphasizing protest guidelines.
“There’s been some apprehension, but I was so happy to see such a turnout for our first rally back,” Alzami said.
Prince A. Williams ’25, an AFRO co-founder, said in an interview that the protest presented a unique opportunity as “the first rally back of the semester.”
“It’s the first time that we formalized a kind of coalition that’s building on Harvard’s campus of people from all different backgrounds,” said Williams, a Crimson Editorial editor. “It was important to publicly show the strength of that coalition, and that we’re not going away — despite efforts to try to repress the student movements on this campus and abroad.”
AFRO co-founder Kojo Acheampong ’26, who led chants of “in our millions, in our billions, we are all Palestinians” and “free Palestine,” also referenced disciplinary action taken against protesters following an occupation of University Hall.
“When the University started to attack our organization, when they started attacking individuals — we know that means nothing more than our protests and our activism and our organizing is working,” Acheampong said during the protest.
“The repression tactics will never work,” Acheampong added. “We’re not scared, Harvard University, we’re not scared.”
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