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Cambridge Residents Alliance Rallies in Solidarity with Encampment Protesters

Cambridge residents and non-Harvard affiliates rally at Johnston Gate. The group was organized by Cambridge Residents Alliance in solidarity with pro-Palestine students in the Yard encampment.
Cambridge residents and non-Harvard affiliates rally at Johnston Gate. The group was organized by Cambridge Residents Alliance in solidarity with pro-Palestine students in the Yard encampment. By Jina H. Choe
By Azusa M. Lippit and Laurel M. Shugart, Crimson Staff Writers

More than 50 non-Harvard affiliates and Cambridge residents rallied outside of Johnston Gate on Sunday afternoon in a rally organized by the Cambridge Residents Alliance in solidarity with students participating in a pro-Palestine Harvard Yard encampment.

Sunday’s rally was one of multiple non-affiliate solidarity protests and gatherings held outside Harvard Yard gates since the University indefinitely restricted Yard access to affiliates Friday.

One CRA protester passed a bag of food donations through Johnston Gate to a student participating in the encampment. A group of campers briefly came to the gate to speak with and chant alongside CRA protesters, who held signs reading “Cambridge Supports the Student Encampment!,” “Harvard Divest from genocide!,” and “Hands Off The Encampment! No Police.”

Two journalists from Al Jazeera filmed the rally from outside the gate.

Marty Blatt, a CRA protester and Cambridge resident, encouraged attendees to call Cambridge City Councilors and urge them not to send the Cambridge Police Department to clear the encampment. Blatt pointed to police response to a 1969 anti-war University Hall occupation, during which the administration called state police.

“The day this went up, the encampment — I called the mayor, Denise Simmons, and a city councilor, Sumbul Siddiqui,” Blatt said at the rally, telling attendees to call “anyone you know in city government.”

“Harvard’s going to clear this, right? We know that,” Blatt said, gesturing to the encampment. “It’s a question of when, I think, not if. And when they do, we do not want to see Cambridge Police going in there and breaking up a peaceful protest.”

Though administrators have issued several written and emailed disciplinary warnings to encampment protesters, it is unclear whether the University will take action to remove the tents, which are now more than 50 in number.

CRA President Lee Farris said the CRA has been lobbying the City Council against CPD involvement.

“Our organization has sent a letter to the City Council saying, ‘Don’t let the Cambridge Police arrest the students.’ And we’ve also sent letters to the City Council calling for a ceasefire resolution, which they did pass,” Farris said in an interview with The Crimson.

“These guys are peaceful, and there’s no reason for our police to get involved whatsoever,” Farris added.

The CPD has not been involved in the response to the encampment. CPD spokesperson Robert Goulston wrote in a statement on Wednesday, the first day of the encampment, that Harvard notifies CPD in the event of a protest but that the department has “not dedicated resources” to handling the demonstration.

In a Friday interview with The Crimson, Harvard University Police Department Chief Victor A. Clay said HUPD would only arrest encampment protesters in the event of “significant property damage or physical violence at any level” rather than in order to enforce administrative policies.

Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 said in a Monday interview with The Crimson that the University has a “very, very high bar” to calling law enforcement, but did not rule out the possibility.

Phyllis Bretholtz, a Cambridge resident who attended the protest, said she is “enormously proud” of the encampment protesters.

“As a longtime resident, I want to be proud of what Cambridge stands for, and I am not proud of what Harvard stands for,” Bretholtz said in an interview with The Crimson. “Students are showing enormous courage, and I say ‘Bravo.’”

Both non-affiliates and Harvard alumni at the rally criticized the response from Harvard’s administration, stressing their support for the students in the encampment.

“It is really disgusting to me how the administrations of some of these schools are using very nebulous language to weaponize accusations of antisemitism and directing them at those students — many of whom are Jewish — fighting for human rights of all, fighting for an end to the genocide,” said Lauren R. Shear, a Harvard Extension School alumna.

“They don’t care about Jewish safety, because a lot of these students are Jewish, and they should be caring about all their students’ safety, full stop,” she added.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment for this article.

Farris echoed Shear’s sentiment with a message for the campers.

“We love you. We support you. Keep doing it, and you're making a big difference,” Farris said.

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

—Staff writer Laurel M. Shugart can be reached at Follow them on X @laurelmshugart or on Threads @laurel.shugart.

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