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Protesters Rally Against Involuntary Leave, Rename Harvard Yard Buildings Amid Move-Out

More than 200 people gathered in Harvard Yard to protest the decision to place 20 students on involuntary leaves of absence over their participation in the pro-Palestine encampment.
More than 200 people gathered in Harvard Yard to protest the decision to place 20 students on involuntary leaves of absence over their participation in the pro-Palestine encampment. By Addison Y. Liu
By Madeleine A. Hung and Azusa M. Lippit, Crimson Staff Writers

More than 200 Harvard affiliates rallied in Harvard Yard on Friday to protest the University’s decision to place 20 students on involuntary leave for participating in the pro-Palestine encampment.

The rally was organized by Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine, an unrecognized student group that mounted the encampment on April 24. The protesters gathered in front of the John Harvard statue before circling the Yard, chanting and playing drums and noisemakers.

The march stopped briefly outside freshman dorms Holworthy and Thayer Hall, as well as University Hall to unfurl banners “renaming” the buildings Sidra Hassouna Hall, Shireen Abu Akleh Hall, and Hind Hall, respectively.

The signs honored Sidra Hassouna, a 7-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in an Israeli airstrike; Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist who was killed while on assignment in the West Bank; and Hind Rajab, a 6-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed alongside her family and the emergency responders who tried to save her.

Prince A. Williams ’25, an organizer with HOOP, said the “renaming” of buildings around the Yard is connected to a broader denaming effort across the University including a campaign to dename Winthrop House.

“We name University Hall — the hall where the cowards of admin come out and try to discipline us — in Hind’s honor,” a HOOP organizer said as protesters displayed a banner reading “Hind Hall” on the University Hall steps.

While the protesters delivered several speeches at the John Harvard statue, Harvard Divinity School student Shabbos “Alexander” Kestenbaum stood feet away from the speakers holding up a sign that read “From Harvard Yard to the plaza send these antisemites off to Gaza.”

The rally’s organizers asked attendees not to engage with the counterprotesters.

Shabbos “Alexander” Kestenbaum, a Harvard Divinity School student, attended the Friday rally  as a counterprotester. He held a sign that read “From Harvard Yard to the plaza send these antisemites off to Gaza.”
Shabbos “Alexander” Kestenbaum, a Harvard Divinity School student, attended the Friday rally as a counterprotester. He held a sign that read “From Harvard Yard to the plaza send these antisemites off to Gaza.” By Frank S. Zhou

Throughout the event, protesters said the administration has not met their demands for divestment.

Elizabeth S. Ross, an organizer with HOOP and Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers, said in a speech at the rally that interim University President Alan M. Garber ’76 has let “dozens of students sleep outside of his office night after night without offering any meaningful engagement with their demands, refusing to hear students out about their demands and the months of research that’s gone into this development.”

In a press conference outside the Yard’s Johnston Gate earlier Friday afternoon, Ross said she is one of the graduate students placed on involuntary leave by the University.

Protesters at the rally said they would not be deterred by the leave of absence notices.

“We’re not afraid when we get Ad Boarded,” Williams said. “We’re not afraid when we get suspended.”

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in a statement that in a Wednesday meeting with protesters, Garber “listened to the students’ perspectives on their concerns and goals.”

“He reaffirmed the University’s commitment, as an institution where debate and discussion are central to our mission, that there would be more opportunities for constructive dialogue on these issues across our community in the coming months,” Newton wrote.

“This conversation was not a negotiation of protesters’ demands,” Newton added.

Protesters unfurled a banner /renaming/ University Hall to /Hind
Protesters unfurled a banner /renaming/ University Hall to /Hind By Frank S. Zhou

Amid the marching protesters, families carried boxes and furniture out of nearby freshman dorms in the process of move-out, which is set to occur until noon on Sunday.

Just after noon on Friday, two hours before the rally, Harvard Yard Operations wrote that cars would no longer be allowed in the Yard during freshman move-out in an email to freshmen obtained by The Crimson.

The email, which acknowledges that the change is due to “a protest encampment in Harvard Yard that is impacting various aspects of access,” states that families should park outside of the yard and up to two family members may enter the Yard if accompanied by a student host.

Williams said at the rally that he is one of the students who was placed on involuntary leave Friday morning.

“In my suspension letter, they told me that I was suspended because this encampment was a threat to University safety,” he said.

Williams said pro-Palestine activism will continue despite the administrative actions.

“This action, this movement, wasn’t just the finale of a semester,” Williams said. “It was the beginning.”

—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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