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Animal Rights Protester Dumps Glitter on Harvard President Alan Garber Before Alumni Day Speech

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Updated May 31, 2024, at 7:57 p.m.

An animal rights protester dumped a tube of gold glitter on interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 as he stepped up to the podium at Tercentenary Theatre and prepared to address attendees at Harvard Alumni Day.

The protester, Brittany Drake, who appeared to be wearing an event badge, poured gold glitter over Garber as she shouted: “For the baby monkeys, for the animals in the labs, Harvard, shut down the baby monkey labs now.”

Harvard University Police Department spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote in a statement that the protester was immediately escorted off stage and arrested by HUPD officers.

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“Harvard University Police Officers immediately detained the individual and escorted her out of the area,” Catalano wrote. “The individual was arrested for assault and battery, trespassing, and disturbing a public assembly.”

Catalano wrote that the protester was not affiliated with the University and that the glitter was not hazardous.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal rights group that organized the demonstration, wrote in a press release that Drake had been charged with trespassing and “failure to disperse a riot.”

Garber initially appeared to be visibly surprised by the sudden confrontation as half of his face was covered in gold glitter. The camera broadcasting a livestream of Harvard Alumni Day quickly cut away from the stage as members of the audience audibly gasped and began booing the protester.

Despite being covered in glitter, Garber appeared to take the attack in stride.

“It’s fine,” Garber told people onstage who rushed to support him. “I could use a little glitter.”

As the livestream returned to the stage, Garber used the glitter attack to reaffirm the University’s commitment to free expression.

“I hope that Harvard will always continue to be a place where free speech continues to thrive,” Garber said.

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Throughout the event, Garber and others referenced the glitter attack. Garber appeared to joke about the incident while posing for a photograph with one of the Harvard Medal honorees, as he apologized for his glitter-stained suit.

The glitter attack against Garber was part of PETA’s yearslong campaign against experiments involving monkeys in a Harvard Medical School laboratory run by professor Margaret S. Livingstone.

The Medical School has previously described PETA’s characterization of Livingstone’s experiments as containing “factual inaccuracies.” Livingstone has also publicly refuted some of PETA’s claims about her experiments.

PETA recently protested outside Garber’s April 16 alumni event in Washington and multiple Global Networking Night events in March.

A spokesperson for PETA confirmed the protester was affiliated with PETA but is not an employee of the organization. The protester could not be reached for comment.

After Garber finished speaking, outgoing Harvard Alumni Association President Tracy “Ty” Moore II '06 acknowledged the incident and praised Garber’s response before continuing the ceremony.

“I’m just going to say what’s on everybody’s minds,” Moore said. “What a remarkable demonstration of composure to be accosted and have something thrown on him in an aggressive manner and to still be able to stand here with poise and have the strength of mind and the composure to still speak words filled with insight and appreciation for this brilliant alum community is again beyond me.”

“Thank you, President Garber,” he added.

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at emma.haidar@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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