Pro-Palestine Harvard Students Occupy Harvard Yard on First Day of Encampment


Pro-Palestine protesters established an encampment in Harvard Yard on Wednesday to demand that the University divest from investments and companies in the West Bank and to protest the College’s suspension of the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

The encampment began at noon as an emergency rally organized by the Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine Coalition, a group of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate pro-Palestine organizations. About an hour into the rally — which reached 500 protesters at its peak — organizers ran out from various freshman dorms with tent equipment to set up an encampment in Harvard Yard in front of the John Harvard statue.

As of Wednesday evening, the encampment consisted of 23 tents decorated with cardboard signs and Palestinian flags, with large quantities of food, water, and sleeping bags stocked on site. Around 50 protesters remained at the encampment, a significant drop-off from the hundreds that initally joined the afternoon protest.

The encampment comes amid a wave of similar pro-Palestinian demonstrations on college campuses across the country.


At Columbia University, New York police officers arrested more than 100 demonstrators three days after students set up an encampment on Columbia’s campus. Yale campus police arrested approximately 50 protesters on Tuesday. Pro-Palestine student groups at other Boston-area universities, including MIT and Emerson College, have also established encampments.

Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 said in a Monday interview with The Crimson that while he would not rule out police response to a large-scale demonstration, it would require a “very high bar.”


Harvard administrators restricted access to Harvard Yard to Harvard University ID holders beginning on Sunday through Friday, in apparent anticipation of such protests. Securitas guards and Harvard University Police Department officers were stationed at every entrance to Harvard Yard on Wednesday to check IDs.

Though several top College and University administrators walked around and observed the protest, the University’s first official communication came nearly seven hours after the encampment began, in response to a request for comment from The Crimson.

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in a Wednesday evening statement to The Crimson that “we are closely monitoring the situation and are prioritizing the safety and security of the campus community.

College spokesperson Alixandra A. Nozzolillo did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

Protesters involved in the protest and encampment were divided into four different levels of risk, according to a PSC organizer at the encampment. Members of the “red team” are willing to be arrested, while members of the “pink team” will stay the night and expect to face administrative action from the Harvard College Administrative board. Other students — in the “yellow team” — are marshaling and delivering supplies for the encampment, while the “green team” conducts virtual coordinating tasks and gathering of supplies.

As of Wednesday evening, the encampment remained peaceful, and no police or administrative action has been taken — though some students are prepared to be arrested or face disciplinary action from the College for their activism.


HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano said the force is “monitoring the situation,” with officers stationed around the encampment throughout the day. Earlier in the day, an HUPD officer had told The Crimson that they were stationed in the Yard for the Harvard Arts First festival, which began Wednesday.

Harvard history professor Walter Johnson — a former faculty advisor for the PSC — acted as a police liaison on behalf of the protesters. According to a statement from Cambridge Police Department spokesperson Robert Goulston, the city’s force “have not dedicated resources” to policing the protest.

The protest officially began around noon, when more than 200 Harvard students gathered at the John Harvard statue for an emergency rally. An organizer called the College’s Monday suspension of the PSC “yet another move to curb student protest of the Zionist state.”

“Our administration has proven time and time again that it cares more about the whims of its donors than the safety of its students,” the crowd said during a call-and-response chant. “Not only does this move demonstrate a blatant disregard for Palestinian voices, but it also sets a chilling precedent for students’ right to protest.”

The group then mobilized around the perimeter of the Yard with signs and chants after an organizer announced that “it’s time to march.”


As protestors marched, organizers ran from freshman dorms carrying tents and tarps to the center of the yard. Organizers established the encampment within the next 10 minutes, though they continued to bring additional tents and supplies throughout the day.

At around 4:30 p.m., students began to pray Asr, the third Muslim prayer in a sequence of five daily prayers. Asr usually occurs between noon and sunset. Some protesters in the encampment stood around a tent and held up keffiyehs to protect the privacy of those praying.

At around 5 p.m, organizers held a teach-in on the history of student protest, which was cut short by a brief downpour just before 6 p.m.

Organizers planned for approximately 30 students to spend the first night in the tents, but by around 9 p.m, approximately 50 people still remained at the encampment. Organizers constructed eight additional tents, expanding the camp towards Johnson gate.

Following a dinner of nachos, leftover seder food, donated pastries, and donated Otto’s pizza, students conducted the Maghrib prayer as the sun set.

At around 8 p.m., Harvard College Dean of Students Thomas Dunne told protesters they should abide by “quiet hours” between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Dunne added that protesters should email him if non-Harvard affiliates arrive at the encampment, and he will “work to address” the situation.

A security marshal for the protest emphasized that the protesters intend to remain strictly non-violent and requested that the College Dean of Students’ Office provide warning before photographing student IDs.

According to multiple organizers, protesters are prepared to camp until the demands are met or until they are forced to leave.

—Staff writers Jo B. Lemann, Rahem D. Hamid, Miles J. Herszenhorn, Matan H. Josephy, Cam E. Kettles, Azusa M. Lippit, Tilly R. Robinson, Elias J. Schisgall, Neil H. Shah, and Claire Yuan contributed reporting.

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

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

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

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at Follow her on X @asherjmont or on Threads @asher_montgomery.