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Pro-Palestine Protesters Rally for Rafah, in Support of Arrested Columbia Demonstrators

More than 200 demonstrators march through Harvard Yard on Wednesday afternoon in a rally to demonstrate solidarity with protesters at Columbia University.
More than 200 demonstrators march through Harvard Yard on Wednesday afternoon in a rally to demonstrate solidarity with protesters at Columbia University. By Elyse C. Goncalves
By Michelle N. Amponsah and Elyse C. Goncalves, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated May 2, 2024, at 12:38 p.m.

More than 200 pro-Palestine demonstrators rallied for Rafah and criticized the repression of student activism at universities across the country at a Wednesday afternoon march around the Harvard Yard encampment.

The rally, organized by Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine — a coalition of pro-Palestine groups calling for Harvard’s divestment from companies in Israel — comes exactly one week after protestors mounted an encampment in the center of Harvard Yard and amid arrests of student protesters at universities across the country.

Following the occupation of Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall on Tuesday night by pro-Palestine demonstrators, Columbia administrators asked the New York Police Department to clear Hamilton Hall and an encampment on the school’s main quad. More than 100 students were arrested.

During the rally at Harvard, protesters taped signs to the doors of University Hall that listed HOOP’s demands. Organizers also chanted “no divestment, no commencement” and criticized the College’s decision to take disciplinary action against pro-Palestine students in the Yard encampment.

Protesters mounted the encampment on the last day of spring classes at Harvard and said it would remain until the University divested — something it has repeatedly said it will not do. Though Harvard administrators have taken no action to directly break up the encampment, it is unclear how University and College leadership will respond to the encampment as the May 23 commencement ceremonies approach.

On Monday morning, more than 30 undergraduates were asked to appear before the Harvard College Administrative Board — the administrative body that oversees the application and enforcement of Harvard College’s policies.

Protesters at the rally chanted, “Harvard you can take my name, I feel pride and you feel shame” — a reference to ID checks that have taken place almost daily since the encampment began by Harvard administrators, including Dean of Students Thomas Dunne, Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt ’01, and Dean of Student Services Michael Burke.

A University spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Protesters heard from students and faculty at the rally, all of whom called for the University to divest. Tala A. Alfoqaha, a Palestinian third-year student at Harvard Law School, spoke about the wave of campus protests in the U.S. and its perception in Palestine.

“People in Palestine are calling this the ‘student intifada,’” Alfoqaha said. The term “intifada” — Arabic for “shaking off” — refers to Palestinian uprisings against Israel and is viewed by many Jews as antisemitic.

Students marched from University Hall to Massachusetts Hall, which houses the office of interim President Alan M. Garber ’76. They read off the names of Garber, College Dean Rakesh Khurana, and each of the deans at the University, chanting “we charge you with genocide” after each name.

Organizers then led protesters in a march around the Yard before returning to the John Harvard Statue.

Phoebe G. Barr ’24, who said she had stayed in the encampment for a week, said at the rally that if “Harvard cares so goddamn much about my mental health, they need to get serious about divesting from genocide.”

“The only thing having a negative effect on my mental health is them dragging us out of bed in the morning to check our IDs,” Barr said. “One thing that has had a negative effect on my mental health is them putting up signs and handing out slips threatening to withhold my degree, threatening to withhold my degree for taking part in political speech.”

Dunne sent two emails to Harvard affiliates warning of disciplinary action and ‘increased sanctions’ for continued involvement in the Yard encampment on Thursday and Saturday. The Monday notices of Ad Board hearings also stated that students who had pending disciplinary charges with the Ad Board may have their degrees withheld.

Protestors also read a statement released by HOOP on Instagram Tuesday, criticizing the actions of administration and police at peer schools in response to student encampments.

“The University has fallen. We are watching hundreds of armed police officers march into university campuses. We are watching our comrades getting rounded up. We are watching students getting kettled,” the post stated.

“Actions have consequences and consequences lead to actions. We do not yet know where this ends — but know that we are watching,” it read.

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

—Staff writer Elyse C. Goncalves can be reached at Follow her on X @e1ysegoncalves or on Threads @elyse.goncalves.

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