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Harvard University Police Enter Encampment, Photograph Protesters

Harvard University police officers stationed outside Mass. Hall during the first week of the encampment. HUPD officers entered the encampment and photographed students on Monday.
Harvard University police officers stationed outside Mass. Hall during the first week of the encampment. HUPD officers entered the encampment and photographed students on Monday. By Julian J. Giordano
By Michelle N. Amponsah and Joyce E. Kim, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated May 13, 2024 at 8:00 p.m.

Harvard University Police Department officers entered the pro-Palestine encampment in the Yard and photographed students on Monday, according to an Instagram post by Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine.

The police presence in the encampment comes just days after the University placed more than 20 students on involuntary leaves of absence for their involvement in the demonstration — effectively barring the students from campus.

The move opens the door for the University to call on the police to dismantle the encampment, which would make Harvard the latest in a string of universities to do so. Though interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 was initially reluctant to involve police, the prospect has become increasingly likely as the University’s efforts to clear the encampment before its May 23 Commencement ceremonies have failed.

HOOP wrote in the post that nearly a dozen police officers entered the Harvard Yard encampment and photographed students before leaving.

“The cops left after taking pictures of people directly inside their tents and surveilling the interiors without any notice or warning,” HOOP wrote in the post.

The post shows HUPD Chief Victor A. Clay, along with other police officers, taking photos of students inside of tents at the encampment. Clay previously called the encampment “peaceful” and defended the students’ right to protest in an April interview with The Crimson.

Clay also said that HUPD would not be responsible for enforcing administrative sanctions but would only get involved if protesters violated the law.

HUPD officers photographed students inside of their tents as well as protesters’ supplies and the exterior of the encampment.

HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote in a Monday evening statement to The Crimson that “this afternoon several HUPD members walked in and around the encampment to monitor the situation.”

“Some pictures were taken documenting the activity and persons involved in the encampment,” he added. “None of these pictures will be posted publicly.”

Harvard spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.

This marks the first instance in which police officers entered the Harvard Yard encampment since it began nearly three weeks ago. The encampment has remained peaceful despite rising tensions between students and administrators.

Harvard administrators have periodically conducted ID checks of students in the encampment. Last Tuesday, when encampment protesters refused to submit to ID checks — the first time they resisted — Dean of Student Services Michael Burke resorted to filming students’ faces to identify members of the encampment.

Garber met with a group of HOOP organizers Wednesday evening to propose that they end the occupation and avoid receiving involuntary leave notices. Organizers refused Garber’s proposal, instead offering a counterproposal that he declined.

The meeting came after repeated warnings from administrators — including Garber himself in an email last Monday, threatening “involuntary leave” for protesters who remain at the encampment.

More than 60 students continue to face charges before various Administrative Boards — bodies responsible for the application and enforcement of their respective schools’ policies — in a separate disciplinary process from the involuntary leave notices.

Since it was mounted on April 24, the encampment has since expanded to more than 50 tents across Harvard Yard into Tercentenary Theatre, where Harvard’s Commencement ceremonies are annually held.

—Staff writers Emma H. Haidar and Cam E. Kettles contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mnamponsah.

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

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