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200 Pro-Palestine Protesters Rally For Rafah, Stage Sit-in on Peabody Street

More than 200 pro-Palestine protesters rallied in the Science Center outside Harvard Yard to condemn the repression of student activism on college campuses.
More than 200 pro-Palestine protesters rallied in the Science Center outside Harvard Yard to condemn the repression of student activism on college campuses. By Addison Y. Liu
By Dhruv T. Patel and Tilly R. Robinson, Crimson Staff Writers

More than 200 pro-Palestine demonstrators rallied against Israel’s offensive in Rafah and condemned the repression of student activism at a heavily policed Saturday afternoon march from the Science Center Plaza through Harvard Square.

The rally, organized by Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine — an unrecognized coalition of pro-Palestine student groups staging the ongoing encampment in Harvard Yard, comes just one day after Harvard administrators placed 20 students on involuntary leave for participating in the encampment.

The demonstrators — which included Harvard affiliates, activists from other Boston universities, and local residents — convened in the Science Center Plaza before marching to Johnston Gate and staging a sit-in on Peabody Street for 10 minutes. More than 15 Harvard faculty and staff members affiliated with Harvard Faculty and Staff for Palestine were also present at the demonstration.

Noa Sepharia, a Harvard Divinity School student who spoke at the rally, described the “movement for a free Palestine” as part of a broader push against coloniality, policing, and borders — a series of connections that set the tone for several speeches. She slammed Harvard’s decision to place encampment participants on involuntary leave.

“What is our administration’s response to this beautiful encampment protesting a genocide?” Sepharia asked. “Lies and deceit.”

“They paint us as unreasonable for the simple demand that we disclose and divest Harvard’s investments in genocide,” she added.

Sepharia, who identified herself as one of the students placed on involuntary leave on Friday, said the administration’s escalation would not terminate the encampment.

“Hey Garber, I’m still here — and I’m not going anywhere until Harvard divests from genocide,” Sepharia said.

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an emailed statement on Friday that Harvard has “repeatedly communicated” to students that the University is moving forward with involuntary leave procedures.

Newton wrote that the encampment has continued “in violation of university policies, creating a significant disruption to the educational environment at a key time in the semester as students are taking finals and preparing for Commencement.”

During Saturday’s demonstration, organizers from nearby universities — including MIT and Emerson College — recounted stories of aggressive police responses to encampments at their schools and urged demonstrators to stand by Harvard’s encampment.

“We need our communities to show up now for the final encampment left in Boston,” said an organizer from Emerson’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Suhail Parker, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation also spoke at the protest and said encampments at Harvard and other universities are a gateway to broader objectives.

“There’s more that we need to do,” Parker said. “We need to escalate, we need to be creative.”

“The encampments themselves, they’re just a tactic — a very successful tactic — but they have been one tactic in our broader strategy to win liberation for the Palestinian people,” he added.

After an hour of chants and speeches in the Science Center Plaza, protesters staged a sit-in on Peabody Street, where they maintained silence for two minutes in remembrance of civilians killed since Oct. 7.

“We, just like our comrades at Harvard, are a multiethnic, cross-faith coalition of students,” said a student organizer from MIT’s encampment. “We will always, always stand with each other, and we will always stand with Palestine.”

A pro-Palestine protester partially climbed Johnston Gate from within Harvard Yard to watch more than 200 people rally outside the Yard.
A pro-Palestine protester partially climbed Johnston Gate from within Harvard Yard to watch more than 200 people rally outside the Yard. By Addison Y. Liu

As demonstrators halted traffic, pro-Palestinian activists from within Harvard Yard scaled Johnston Gate to hang a banner that said “Welcome to the Liberated Zone.” Several other banners were also hung on nearby fences, including one created by Harvard Faculty and Staff for Palestine.

As protesters hung a banner on a fence adjacent to Johnston Gate, demonstrators managed to break open a heavy duty padlock that had kept the gate shut. Harvard University police, Cambridge police, and Securitas quickly moved protesters away from the gate and reinforced it with a new wire lock.

After the sit-in, demonstrators continued delivering speeches and chanting on a nearby sidewalk. HOOP organizers announced the creation of a makeshift altar near Massachusetts Hall, which houses the office of interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76.

Organizers erected more than 20 signs next to a canvas listing the names of Palestinians killed in Gaza and planted an olive tree, a symbolic Palestinian crop, at the foot of the banner.

The demonstration was heavily monitored by the Harvard police and Cambridge police, who stood around the demonstrators in the Science Center Plaza and during the sit-in on Peabody Street.

Two counterprotesters waved an Israeli flag as protesters delivered speeches near Johnston Gate — but demonstrators, who were told by HOOP not to engage, did not react.

Though speakers condemned involuntary leave and campus crackdowns throughout the rally, many also struck a hopeful tone.

“Our institutions, they’re feeling our pressure,” Quinn Perian, a student organizer with MIT Jews for Ceasefire, told protesters in the plaza. “We know that this is working.”

—Staff writer Dhruv T. Patel can be reached at Follow him on X @dhruvtkpatel.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

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