If you walked by John Harvard today, you probably saw a small group of freshmen staked out in front of the statue.

Were they protecting it? No.

Protesting? Nope.

Punching? Initiating? Bingo.

The students, who claimed to be “guarding” John Harvard, spent the day preventing tourists from taking pictures. It was a measure of increased campus security, they said.

In reality the freshmen are Hasty Pudding punches initiates, or “neophytes” as the club likes to refer to them.  FlyBy wasn't lucky enough to be one of them, but those who made the cut received an email shortly before midnight on Tuesday that asked them to pretend to be John Harvard bodyguards from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. today, in one-hour shifts.

Said one neo, who asked not to be named for fear of offending the club’s leaders,

Most [tourists and students] were pretty laid back about it. When we told tourists not to take pictures some said ‘okay, no problem.’ But a few people were legitimately ticked off.

How did the camera-wielding tourists respond? More on the prank, after the jump.

When one tour group approached, led by an admissions office student tourguide, a neo dressed in all black explained that no picture-taking was allowed, because Ben Affleck was filming in the Square, and because President Obama would be in town soon. “We can’t have any clumping here,” the neo told the crowd.

“But we’re clumping even if we’re not taking pictures,” the confused tour guide replied. “Okay, back up guys,” the tour guide instructed her group. A boy on the tour yelled at the neos, “It’s America, brother.”

One woman went to a HUPD officer to ask permission to take a picture, then returned to the statue and demanded that she be allowed to photograph John Harvard without the neos in the picture. Being courteous, well-bred young men and women, they obliged.

According to one neo, eventually a HUPD cop showed up and asked what was going on. When the neos explained it was part of a punch, reportedly HUPD said they could carry on, as long as they weren’t rude, or doing anything illegal.

One neo thought the task was pretty funny:

I thought that it would get broken up quickly and that tourists might be pissed. But people want to get into the club so they’ll do it.

The President of the Hasting Pudding Kate Harris could not be reached for comment.

It if were 5 degrees and snowing it would be much worse. And I guess it sucks for the tourists who traveled for miles to get here, the neo said.