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Mayor Wu Cancels Harvard Event After Affinity Groups Withdraw Over Emerson Encampment Police Response

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu '07 speaks at Harvard's 2022 class day. Wu canceled an event at Harvard after several Asian affinity groups withdrew their co-sponsorship over her decision to authorize police to break a pro-Palestine student encampment at Emerson College.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu '07 speaks at Harvard's 2022 class day. Wu canceled an event at Harvard after several Asian affinity groups withdrew their co-sponsorship over her decision to authorize police to break a pro-Palestine student encampment at Emerson College. By Dylan J. Goodman
By Madeleine A. Hung and Azusa M. Lippit, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated Sunday, April 28, at 11:31 a.m.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 canceled an April 30 event at Harvard after at least 11 student organizations withdrew from co-sponsoring an event over her decision to send police to break up a pro-Palestine student encampment at Emerson College, according to a text message sent in an internal group chat.

“We wanted to formally relay that Mayor Wu has officially decided not to come to campus after discussing with the relevant parties,” one event organizer wrote in a text message. “As an organization we do not support any threats or violations to freedom of expression and peaceful protests and wanted to thank you guys for bringing this issue to light.”

The event was initially organized by the Asian American Foundation, but Asian American affinity groups at Harvard withdrew their affiliation en masse on Saturday as criticism mounts over Wu’s involvement in the decision to send a police response to Emerson.

A spokesperson for Wu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations wrote in a statement posted to Instagram that the group canceled the event due to “escalating tensions on campus and after careful consideration and consultation with the Boston Mayor's Office.”

The statement made no mention of the mass withdrawl of student groups co-sponsoring the event.

A member of the South Asian Association wrote in a group chat that their members are “not comfortable” affiliating with Wu following the “violent police presence” at Emerson.

More than 100 Emerson College students were arrested by Boston Police early Thursday for participating in a pro-Palestine encampment protest. In a statement to the Boston Globe, Wu said she and Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox mutually agreed that the encampment should be removed.

The withdrawing groups requested that their logos be removed from the poster advertising the event, and a TAAF organizer wrote in the group chat that the promotional poster had been taken down.

Several groups also mentioned that TAAF did not obtain “direct permission” from the organizations to co-sponsor the event.

TAAF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The withdrawing groups include the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association, Harvard Asian American Women’s Association, Harvard-Radcliffe Chinese Students Association, Harvard Korean Association, Harvard Undergraduate Philippine Forum, Harvard South Asian Association, Harvard Undergraduate Hawai’i Club, Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association, Harvard Undergradaute Tibetan Cultural Association, Harvard Taiwanese Cultural Society, and the Task Force for Asian American Progressive Advocacy and Studies.

In a Saturday statement posted to Instagram, AAA wrote Wu’s statements in support of the Boston Police after the removal of Emerson students from a pro-Palestine encampment has “come to our attention and concern.”

“AAA stands against police brutality on all college campuses,” the group wrote. “We hope everyone stays safe in this critical time and that student voices are uplifted and amplified.”

The April 30th event was scheduled to feature an interview with Wu discussing “her life, her political career, and her experience as an AAPI in politics” followed by a Q&A, according to the press release for the event. The event would have been the first of TAAF’s Campus Speaker Series.

—Staff writer Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at madeleine.hung@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Azusa M. Lippit can be reached at azusa.lippit@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @azusalippit or on Threads @azusalippit.

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