Pro-Palestine protesters did not remove University Hall’s American flag, Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain confirmed in a statement on Tuesday after videos circulated on social media showed a large group cheering as the flag was lowered Monday afternoon.
Swain wrote that a University facilities staff member lowered the Harvard Yard flag at 4 p.m., “consistent with daily routine.” The Crimson independently corroborated the account through photos and video taken at the rally.
Protesters rallied against the College’s decision to indefinitely relieve Elom Tettey-Tamaklo from his duties as a freshman proctor following his involvement in a confrontation during a pro-Palestine protest at the Harvard Business School.
Members of the African and African American Resistance Organization — a Harvard student activist group — as well as members of Harvard’s graduate student union and other organizations, co-organized the Monday rally.
Short video clips of Monday’s rally posted on Instagram and TikTok falsely reported that protesters forcibly took down the flag. Some videos circulating on X and Instagram received thousands of likes and hundreds of reposts.
“Harvard University students collectively tear down the American flag,” one post on X was erroneously captioned.
In fact, as rally attendees listened to organizers deliver speeches in front of the John Harvard statue — which is located directly underneath University Hall’s American flag — Harvard facilities staff began to lower the flag.
“In line with University procedures, the American flag is raised in front of University Hall each Monday through Friday at 7 a.m. and lowered at 4 p.m., for proper storage,” Swain wrote. “While a video posted on social media channels shows that the flag was lowered while protesters were present in Harvard Yard, we can confirm it was lowered by Harvard staff.”
Edward B. Childs, a retired Harvard University Dining Services chef and longtime union organizer, was in the middle of delivering a speech at the rally about his years as an activist advocating for an end to apartheid in South Africa when he turned to look at the flag being lowered.
“That’s what we did,” Childs said, to loud cheers from the crowd.
“But that’s not the only thing we did — we put up the ANC flag in its place,” he said, referring to the African National Congress.
The rally, which featured calls for “free Palestine” and chants of “the occupation has got to go,” came as Harvard’s campus remains sharply divided over the war in Israel and Gaza. University administrators and students have faced fierce criticism throughout the past month over their responses to Hamas’ attack on Israel.
As Harvard President Claudine Gay continues to search for a way to ease tensions on campus, her administration recently announced the formation of an antisemitism advisory group, and the decision to extend a task force to support students experiencing online harassment and doxxing until the end of November.