12 Hours Inside the Harvard Yard Occupation

By Crimson Multimedia Staff
By Addison Y. Liu

Pro-Palestine students occupied Harvard Yard in an encampment beginning Wednesday at noon. The protest comes just two days after Harvard College suspended the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee — while universities across the country have also faced a wave of pro-Palestinian student demonstrations. Crimson photographers documented the first 12 hours of the encampment.

11:56 a.m.

Around 200 protestors gathered in the rain for an emergency rally in front of University Hall. Harvard University Police officers and vehicles also established their presence in the area. According to an HUPD officer stationed on the scene, they were instructed to keep students safe and allow protests to proceed unless they became violent or destructive.

By Marina Qu

12:30 p.m.

The group grew to roughly 500 people, with organizers announcing that it is “time to march.” As protesters marched around Harvard Yard, organizers ran out from various freshman dorms with tent equipment to set up an encampment in Harvard Yard in front of the John Harvard statue.

12:49 p.m.

Students and volunteers raced to set up an encampment in front of University Hall in the Yard, pitching tents amid backpacks and other supplies.

As encampment members set up their tents, protesters lined up outside the string-and-posts barrier in a show of solidarity — their signs called for Harvard’s divestment from Israel and a ceasefire in Gaza.

Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts Vijay Iyer spoke at the encampment, reading a statement from Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine. In his speech, Iyer called for the reinstatement of the PSC.

A counter-protester wrapped in an Israeli flag recorded a safety marshall stationed near the encampment.

1:00 p.m.

Protesters pitched a dozen camping tents and a central tent for food, an inflatable watermelon — a symbol of Palestinian solidarity — and laid out handmade signs calling for divestment.

Student speakers and organizers addressed encampment protesters and onlookers throughout the early afternoon.

Protesters wrapped in keffiyehs held signs in Arabic around the encampment and John Harvard statue.

Protesters teamed up in groups, continuing to assemble tents through the afternoon. Organizers also stocked a central tent with food — from chips, cookies, and applesauce to produce and bread — in preparation for their potentially dayslong stay.

1:47 p.m.

Protesters participated in the dabke, a Levantine folk dance which involves holding hands as one circles the encampment.

Protesters fixed pro-Palestine signs and banners to tents around the encampment, including slogans reading “Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine” and “Free Palestine!”

3:00 p.m.

History professor Erez Manela, left, showed his Harvard ID to campus security staff before entering a regularly scheduled faculty meeting in University Hall.

A cameraman from 7 News and a woman beside him stood outside Harvard Yard’s gates attempting to capture the action on the inside. Harvard Yard has been shut down to all but Harvard ID holders all week.

4:14 p.m.

Protesters formed a barrier with keffiyehs around one of the tents as Muslim participants engaged in Asr, or afternoon prayer.

J. Kojo Acheampong ’26, who has helped lead several pro-Palestine protests in the months since Oct. 7, sat at the base of the John Harvard statue.

In the late afternoon, protesters assembled a second wave of eight tents, expanding the encampment deeper into Harvard Yard and towards Johnston Gate. As of Wednesday evening, the encampment consisted of more than 30 tents.

Harvard University police opened the doors to Massachusetts Hall, which houses the office of the Harvard president, to allow several people to exit. Police kept watch at the front door of Massachusetts Hall throughout the afternoon and night.

5:15 p.m.

Protest organizers hosted a teach-in, during which organizers spoke to students about the history of student protest, including the singing of protest songs. The teach-in was cut short due to sporadic rain showers over the next few hours.

6:57 p.m.

Around sunset, students lined up and got dinner from the center tent in the encampment, eating food prepared by organizers, pizza donated earlier in the day, and leftover seder food.

Protesters in the encampment prepared for potential rain by placing tarps and rain covers over the tents. Students also fixed additional posters, flags, and signs to the outside of several tents.

11:43 p.m.

Just before the College’s “quiet hours” began at 11 p.m., students went into the tents to sleep as others continued to transport and deliver supplies for the night.

12:38 a.m.

Just past midnight, nearly all encampment protesters settled into tents across Harvard Yard, wrapping up nighttime conversations and chatter. Small groups of protesters circled the encampment on watch as Harvard University Police Department vehicles stood by.

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