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Harvard Students Streak Around Encampment in Cheeky Primal Scream Display

Students streak through Harvard Yard at midnight in December 2022. This year's iteration of Primal Scream had students stripping and running around a pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard.
Students streak through Harvard Yard at midnight in December 2022. This year's iteration of Primal Scream had students stripping and running around a pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard. By J. Sellers Hill
By Sally E. Edwards, Jo B. Lemann, and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

The students staging a pro-Palestine encampment in Harvard Yard did not quite get the disclosure they wanted as more than 100 Harvard undergraduates bared it all Thursday at midnight for this semester’s iteration of Primal Scream.

While Primal Scream is a tradition dating back to at least 1995, Thursday’s version was unique as students streaked for a naked lap around the Old Yard and the more than 50 tents set up by pro-Palestine demonstrators.

This year, a small but enthused crowd gathered in front of Hollis Hall at approximately 11:55 p.m. to shed their stress and their clothing. The event felt oddly normal even as students continue to navigate Yard gate closures, the weeklong encampment, increased security, and heightened tensions on campus.

The encampment was not the only thing that was different about Primal Scream this year. The Harvard University Band, a regular guest, was not present to blast music as students sprinted past them.

Katelyn M. Dorry ’27 experienced the event with a group of close friends, which included several Primal Scream veterans.

“The Primal Scream is a spiritual experience for me,” Dorry said after the race.

Cyrus H. Hamlin ’27, this semester’s Primal Scream victor, said he had been unsure about participating in the tradition because of the encampment.

“I was really wrestling with the fact that I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the campers,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin ultimately decided in favor of running because he said that he is “a Harvard student and this is a Harvard student tradition.”

Asmer A. Safi ’24, one of the encampment organizers, said he was thankful that everything “went pretty smoothly.”

“We just had a bunch of security marshals from our community come together and just made sure that the perimeter was tightened and no one was pulling anything crazy with the encampment,” he said.

David B.H.P. Sauer ’27, a Primal Scream participant, also said he was unsure whether Primal Scream would still take place given the encampment in the Yard.

“In the beginning, it was unclear whether it would happen because of the encampment, but more people were there than I expected,” Sauer said.

Alan C. Wang ’24 called the event “a wonderful exhibition of body positivity” and said that in his six in-person semesters at Harvard, he had never failed to participate.

“You can come and take a break from finals and do something completely unhinged,” Wang said, still catching his breath. “It’s a really good way to relieve stress.”

Ashmit Singh ’27 said that he appreciated the unifying power of the tradition after a year of University turmoil and division, even despite the active encampment.

“There are people who support it, there are people who don’t support it — and they’re all doing it together and that’s kind of like solidarity regardless of whatever opinion they may have,” he said.

—Staff writer Sally E. Edwards can be reached at sally.edwards@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @sallyedwards04 or on Threads @sally_edwards06.

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

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

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