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Protesters laid a Palestinian flag on the John Harvard statue. College administrators broke their silence on the demonstration as the encampment entered day two.
Protesters laid a Palestinian flag on the John Harvard statue. College administrators broke their silence on the demonstration as the encampment entered day two. By Sami E. Turner
By Michelle N. Amponsah, Joyce E. Kim, and Azusa M. Lippit, Crimson Staff Writers

As the encampment in Harvard Yard entered its second day, College administrators broke their silence on the demonstration, warning protesters that the encampment violated Harvard’s rules against erecting tents or tables in the Yard and threatening disciplinary action.

The encampment — organized by the Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine, a coalition of pro-Palestine groups — began just past noon on Wednesday, following an emergency rally in front of the John Harvard statue at the heart of the Yard.

Protesters demanded Wednesday that the University disclose and divest all institutional and financial investments in Israel. They also demanded that the administration drop all charges of disciplinary action against student activists following Monday’s suspension of the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

According to multiple organizers Wednesday, protesters are prepared to camp until the demands are met or until they are forced to leave. Harvard has repeatedly rejected calls to boycott Israel.

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on protesters’ demands and referred to comments from interim University President Alan M. Garber ’76 in a Monday interview with The Crimson. During the interview, Garber said the University remains staunchly opposed to calls for divestment from Israel and has a “very, very high bar” before resorting to the use of law enforcement.

Though Harvard campus police have yet to intervene in the demonstration, an email sent to undergraduates by Dean of Students Thomas Dunne around 2 p.m. acknowledged the encampment and warned of “disciplinary consequences” for interference with University function.

“Interference with the academic mission or business functions of the University will not be tolerated,” Dunne wrote.

Dunne’s email marked the first public statement from the College directly addressing the protest.

By Thursday evening, protesters had pitched at least 32 tents, and dozens of campers were gathering blankets and belongings in preparation to stay a second night in the Yard. Though Cambridge has seen warm, though occasionally rainy, days this week, temperatures at night have dipped to the low 30s.

Still, it remains unclear for how many more nights the encampment will stay up, as administrators began to take a firmer stance on the demonstration following Dunne’s College-wide email.

Around 4 p.m. in the afternoon, College officials including Dunne and Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt ’01 arrived at the site to photograph the Harvard IDs of protestors remaining inside the encampment.

Following the visit, protesters briefly rallied within the encampment near University Hall, the office of top College administrators, holding up their IDs in apparent mockery of the administrators that had just left the encampment.

“You want to Ad Board us now? Come take our IDs,” one organizer shouted.

The group gathered for a group keffiyeh photo in front of the encampment and chanted, “shut it down.”

The encampment also saw an increased faculty presence later in the afternoon.

Harvard faculty members spotted at the encampment included Harvard Government professor Steven Levitsky, Harvard Chan School of Public Health Professor Mary Basset, and History professors Alison Frank Johnson, Vincent Brown, and Arunabh Ghosh.

Harvard Kennedy School Professor Khalil G. Muhammad said he visited the protest to see “the peaceful nature of the students who are protesting an unjust war happening in Gaza right now,” adding that he found the protesters “inspiring.”

The encampment at Harvard comes amid a surge of similar demonstrations at campuses across the country — including Columbia University, Emerson College, MIT, and Yale University — that have resulted in widespread student arrests and suspensions.

Though there has been no indication that administrators will resort to arresting the protesters, who have remained peaceful through the first two days of the encampment, there was a constant police presence in the Yard since before the start of the Wednesday rally.

Harvard University Police Officers and Securitas guards were also present at gates to the Yard, restricting access to Harvard ID holders while turning away visitors and non-affiliates, including several journalists.

Although the notice posted to gates state that the Yard closures will last until Friday afternoon, it remains unclear whether the closures will extend into the weekend as the encampment approaches its third day.

Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Holly J. Jensen wrote in an emailed statement Thursday evening that the University is monitoring students’ safety.

“Harvard continues to take steps to ensure the security and safety of all members of our community, as well as mitigate disruption for students who live within Harvard Yard as they enter reading period,” she wrote.

Shortly before 9 p.m., HOOP announced 15 “community guidelines” for the encampment in an Instagram post.

The community guidelines included a commitment to “nonviolent direct action.” The guidelines also state that protestors will not engage with counter-protesters.

“We will not damage property or resist arrest,” the guidelines state, adding that protesters will not speak with authority figures such as police, administrators, or press “without first consulting a designated liaison.”

“We are here first and foremost in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We are here because the Israeli occupation of Palestine has not let up for 75 years, and because our university is complicit,” the first guideline states.

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

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

—Staff writer Azusa M. Lippit can be reached at Follow her on X @azusalippit or on Threads @azusalippit.

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