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Encampment Protesters Briefly Raise 3 Palestinian Flags Over Harvard Yard | News

Updated Saturday April 27 at 9:46 p.m.

Pro-Palestinian student protesters at the Harvard Yard encampment waved three Palestinian flags from the university hall Saturday evening.

A group of three protesters raised the flags above the statue of John Harvard in the courtyard, where the university sometimes flies the American flag or the flags of the countries of visiting foreign dignitaries. At 6:34 p.m., Harvard University Police officers called Harvard Yard Operations to remove the flag.

As staff removed the flags, protesters shouted “Shame!” and chanted “Palestine free and free” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

As the Harvard Campus Services staff member walked away with the Palestinian flags and two HUPD police officers, a student protester on the steps of University Hall attempted to grab flags from the facilities staff. Surrounding protesters immediately urged him to stop.

The protester declined to comment.

In a statement Saturday evening, Harvard spokesman Jonathan L. Swain wrote that raising the flags was “a violation of University policy and those involved will be subject to disciplinary action.”

After facilities staff removed the flags, protesters willing to have their Harvard University ID cards photographed and their numbers collected by administrators gathered inside the encampment. Other protesters also gathered in front of the encampment ropes in a show of solidarity.

“Harvard, Harvard take my ID.” You can’t really scare me,” the protesters chanted.

After the flags were raised and then taken down, protesters held a vigil for Palestinians killed in the war, during which dozens of demonstrators sat silently in a semi-circle around the statue of John Harvard.

At 9 p.m., immediately after the vigil, a group of seven administrators — including Dean of Students Thomas Dunne, Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt ’01, and Dean of Student Services Michael Burke — arrived from University Hall and entered the camp area. to verify identity documents.

Several administrators carried ID scanners. Administrators took down the ID numbers of students in the encampment and handed each one a slip of paper warning them of disciplinary action, including the possibility that graduating seniors would be denied their diplomas.

“Repeated violations of university and school policies will result in increasingly severe sanctions,” the statement said, adding that “students with pending disciplinary matters may not graduate.”

The warning of disciplinary action was the third issued by College administrators following Dunne’s emails Thursday and Saturday, suggesting the College is moving closer to formally calling the undergraduate protesters before the Harvard College Board of Trustees .

The threat that diplomas could be denied comes just weeks before Harvard’s commencement ceremonies. Many of the protesters at the encampment are seniors who are expected to graduate in May.

Administrators have been checking protesters’ identities daily since Thursday.

Administrators checked, but did not write down, the identification numbers of students outside the encampment, including those of several Crimson reporters on site.

In less than 15 minutes, the administrators walked out as protesters – who chanted “Administrator, administrator, you cannot hide, we accuse you of genocide” and “Every dollar provided by Harvard, a neighborhood in Gaza dies” with megaphones and drums – were surrounded and followed. them outside the court.

After the departure of the administrations, the demonstrators called a group meeting in the encampment.

The American flag was not flying at the time the Palestinian flags were raised because university procedures require that “the American flag be raised in front of the university lobby every Monday through Friday at 7 a.m. and lowered at 4 p.m. for proper storage.

The first flag was raised on the center pole of University Hall at 6 p.m. Protesters initially tied the flag upside down, but it was quickly turned upside down a few minutes later. At 6:18 p.m., protesters raised a second, smaller Palestinian flag on an adjacent pole, and a third flag followed on the final pole at 6:23 p.m.

The group around the encampment applauded and chanted “Free Palestine, free Palestine” as each of the flags was raised. Led by an organizer with a megaphone, the group also chanted “What do we want, justice!” When do we want it, now! and “If we don’t get it, shut it down.” Several protesters also took photos.

No university administrators arrived on scene during the half hour the flags were raised on Harvard Yard.

Around 6:40 p.m., organizers posted a photo of the first Palestinian flag flying from the university lobby to Harvard’s Out of Occupied Palestine Instagram account with the caption “WE FLY FOR PALESTINE.”

“For over 200 days, Harvard has ignored the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Until they agree to meet our demands for disclosure and disengagement from Israeli apartheid and occupation, we will make Palestine inevitable,” the organizers wrote. “We will continue this liberated zone and keep the spirit of Palestine alive!” »

During the vigil, a protester noted that Saturday evening was the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and urged attendees to remember the names of journalists killed in Palestine before and after the Hamas attack on Israel on the 7th. october.

Lara Jirmanus, a professor at Harvard Medical School, wrote in a statement that it was “deeply saddening that anti-Palestinian racism is so pervasive that instead of talking about how to end our complicity in the Israeli genocide , we worry that the mostly quiet camps are too noisy. »

“Students camping in the courtyard are participating in one of the most profoundly educational events of their generation,” Jirmanus added. “They teach us to hold power to account when our institutions and democracy have failed to implement the will of the United States and the global public: to guarantee Palestinians the same access to life with dignity as all human beings deserve. »

Securitas agents walked past the John Harvard statue and noticed the flag, but did not stop or address the protesters. Harvard University Police officers stationed in the Yard declined to say whether they would intervene.

HUPD Chief Victor A. Clay defended the rights of protesters in an interview with The Crimson on Friday, saying “we keep our students safe and they’re protesting peacefully and that’s their right and we’re going to support that.” .

This is not the first time an activist group has used the flagpole to promote its cause. In February 2023, protesters from Our Harvard Can Do Better – an anti-rape culture advocacy group – held a “Shame on Harvard” banner on two flagpoles at University Hall. It is not yet known whether the demonstrators will face disciplinary measures for holding up their banners.

On Wednesday, when the encampment began, protesters draped a keffiyeh and a Palestinian flag over the statue of John Harvard.

On Friday morning, Dunne used a pole to take down the keffiyeh after asking students to also remove the flag, and protesters asked Dunne to take down the keffiyeh himself. Shortly after Dunne’s departure, protesters replaced the statue’s keffiyeh, where it sits Saturday evening.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah contributed reporting.

—Editor Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at

—Editor Joyce E. Kim can be reached at Follow her on @joycekim324.

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