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Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine Ends Harvard Yard Encampment

Garber will encourage schools to reinstate protesters from involuntary leave

Protesters dismantle the Harvard Yard encampment Tuesday morning. Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine announced they had reached an agreement with the University to end the encampment in exchange for reversing involuntary leaves of absence and holding conversations with University leadership around divestment.
Protesters dismantle the Harvard Yard encampment Tuesday morning. Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine announced they had reached an agreement with the University to end the encampment in exchange for reversing involuntary leaves of absence and holding conversations with University leadership around divestment. By Jina H. Choe
By Joyce E. Kim and Jo B. Lemann, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated May 14, 2024, at 10:06 a.m.

Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine announced early Tuesday morning that it would peacefully end the encampment in Harvard Yard, bringing an anticlimactic end to Harvard’s most high-profile pro-Palestine protest this year and paving the way for Commencement to proceed as planned.

The decision to peacefully end the encampment came after University President Alan M. Garber ’76 and HOOP organizers negotiated a peaceful end to the protest. Garber’s administration agreed to promptly begin reinstating at least 22 students from involuntary leaves of absence and offered protesters a meeting with members of the University’s governing boards about divestment.

Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain confirmed the University will encourage schools to begin processing petitions for reinstatement from involuntary leave.

“Yesterday, the Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine (HOOP) coalition democratically voted to end its encampment after 20 days,” HOOP wrote in a press release Tuesday morning.

The University also agreed to expedite Administrative Board cases for more than 60 students facing charges for their involvement in the encampment with “precedents of leniency for similar actions in the past,” according to the press release.

Members of the encampment will also meet with Garber and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra to discuss their perspectives on the Israel-Hamas war, according to Swain. HOOP signaled in its Tuesday morning press release that it intended to raise the possibility of establishing a center for Palestine studies in its meeting with Hoekstra.

Garber also confirmed the details of the agreement with HOOP and acknowledged the “profound grief” surrounding the Israel-Hamas war in a Tuesday morning email to Harvard affiliates.

“There will continue to be deep disagreements and strongly felt emotions as we experience pain and distress over events in the wider world,” Garber wrote. “Now more than ever, it is crucial to do what we do at our best, creating conditions for true dialogue, modeling ways to build understanding, empathy, and trust, and pursuing constructive change anchored in the rights and responsibilities we share.”

Despite Garber repeatedly insisting that the University would not negotiate with the protesters, the outcome of the 20-day occupation of the Yard demonstrated that he ultimately preferred to continue seeking a negotiated end to the encampment than sending in Harvard University police officers to clear the tents and arrest protesters.

Protesters began packing up the encampment overnight, moving boxes full of supplies out of the Yard. On Tuesday morning, around a dozen members of the encampment calmly took down tents and collected sleeping bags while playing music from a speaker.

Members of the pro-Palestine encampment pile up pillows and sleeping bags as they end their 21-day occupation of Harvard Yard.
Members of the pro-Palestine encampment pile up pillows and sleeping bags as they end their 21-day occupation of Harvard Yard. By Jina H. Choe

As protesters dismantled their tent city, there was a reverse process playing out on the other side of University Hall, where Harvard’s Commencement ceremonies take place. Movers delivered large metal poles to construct a temporary stage as other workers prepared to hoist Harvard banners above the steps of Widener Library.

The encampment also saw an increase in police presence in the hours leading up to the announcement of its conclusion. At least three police cars, including Harvard University Police Department vehicles and one unmarked police car, circled the perimeter of the encampment Tuesday morning.

Garber previously met with a group of HOOP organizers last week and told protesters that they must end the encampment to avoid receiving involuntary leave notices.

He also offered to seek a meeting between HOOP members and at least one member of the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility — a group that determines how the University votes on shareholder matters related to investments in publicly traded companies.

The pro-Palestine protesters initially rejected Garber’s proposal by responding with counterproposals of their own that Garber, in turn, declined.

When HOOP publicly revealed its meeting with Garber last week, a University spokesperson insisted that it was not a “dialogue” and not a negotiation, but Tuesday’s end to the encampment showed that some degree of negotiations continued over the past six days even as the agreement HOOP announced Tuesday morning is remarkably similar to the proposal offered by the University nearly one week ago.

The surprise negotiated end to the encampment came after days of escalating tensions between protesters and the administration.

Protesters raised a banner over the encampment that depicted Garber as a devil. The banner depicted Garber, who is Jewish, with horns and a tail sitting on a toilet. Protesters later removed the image after they faced fierce backlash from many affiliates who described the drawing as antisemitic.

During a 150-person rally on Saturday, protesters attempted to let non-Harvard affiliates into the Yard by breaking a lock on Johnston Gate with a bolt cutter. While HUPD officers quickly secured the gate, Swain called the incident “extremely concerning.”

In response, Harvard police entered the encampment on Monday and took photographs of protesters in their tents, a move which some suspected could precede police action to forcibly end the encampment.

“In reassessing the strategic value of our encampment, we have come to the conclusion that this tactic has outlasted its utility with respect to our demands,” HOOP organizers wrote in the press release.

“We are under no illusions: we do not believe these meetings are divestment wins,” they added in an Instagram post. “These side-deals are intended to pacify us away from full disclosure & divestment.”

—Staff writers Neil H. Shah and Aran Sonnad-Joshi contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at joyce.kim@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X at @joycekim324.

—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at jo.lemann@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @Jo_Lemann.

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