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Harvard Yard Closed Until Friday in Anticipation of Pro-Palestine Protests

Signs posted to the gates of Harvard Yard on Sunday said that the Yard was closed to non-Harvard-ID holders and that “structures, including tents and tables” are not permitted without prior permission.
Signs posted to the gates of Harvard Yard on Sunday said that the Yard was closed to non-Harvard-ID holders and that “structures, including tents and tables” are not permitted without prior permission. By Julian J. Giordano
By Michelle N. Amponsah and Joyce E. Kim, Crimson Staff Writers

The University restricted access to Harvard Yard until Friday afternoon in apparent anticipation of student protests, amid a wave of high-profile pro-Palestine demonstrations at universities across the country including Columbia University and Yale University.

The closures are a sign that Harvard’s leadership is hoping to avoid its own version of the scene at Columbia, where more than 100 students were arrested Thursday by the New York City Police Department for their participation in an ongoing pro-Palestine encampment on the school’s main quad.

An announcement of the closure, posted to Yard entrance gates, warned of disciplinary measures against Harvard students and affiliates who bring in unauthorized structures such as tents or tables or block access to building entrances.

An email sent to students and staff who work in the Yard stated that the closures are being done “out of an abundance of caution and with the safety of our community as a priority.”

The arrests at Columbia sparked a wave of solidarity protests at universities across the country, including at Harvard, where more than 200 Harvard affiliates rallied in Harvard Yard Friday demanding that the University “disclose and divest” from Israeli companies and investments in the West Bank.

The rally at Harvard was co-organized by a coalition of recognized and unrecognized pro-Palestine groups. Unrecognized activist organizations — including the African and African American Resistance Organization and Jews for Palestine, which staged an occupation of University Hall in November — have increasingly led pro-Palestine organizing on campus.

The University “shifted to HUID access only to stay ahead of potential issues with non-Harvard recognized groups,” College spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo wrote in a statement to The Crimson on Sunday.

Though the spring semester has been comparatively calmer than the fall — where frequent student protests widened campus divisions and contributed to former President Claudine Gay’s descent into controversy — the growing backlash to the arrests at Columbia coincides with a resurgence of pro-Palestine activism at Harvard.

Three Harvard student governments — at the Divinity School, the Law School, and the Graduate School of Design — have passed resolutions in recent weeks calling on Harvard to divest from Israeli occupations in the West Bank or the war in Gaza.

Undergraduate organizers successfully petitioned the Harvard Undergraduate Association for a College-wide referendum on divestment, but the vote was indefinitely postponed over a procedural dispute.

While Harvard’s leadership has stood firm in its opposition to boycotts of Israel, a student occupation at the University would still pose problems for interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76, who has tried in his first few months to deescalate campus tensions and convince outside observers — including members of Congress — that Harvard is equipped to combat antisemitism on its premises.

The National Chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine issued a “call to action” in an Instagram post on Friday.

In a subsequent post Sunday, the group referenced encampments at Columbia, Yale, Rutgers University, and The New School, and promised more to come.

“The encampments transform mass mobilization into long-term sustained occupation, leveraging our tangible power as students to give our institutions no other option but to divest,” organizers wrote in the post.

—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mnamponsah.

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at Follow her on X at @joycekim324.

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