Updated: October 14, 2023, at 6:48 pm
More than 1,000 demonstrators rallied in Harvard Yard in support of Gaza Saturday ahead of an expected ground invasion by Israel, condemning the University for a lack of support of Palestinian students and complicity in what they described as “genocide.”
Jointly organized by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and Graduate Students 4 Palestine, the rally was initially set for Friday evening but was postponed due to safety concerns, according to an Instagram post by GS4P.
The rally came one week after surprise attacks by Hamas on Israel that killed 1,300 Israelis and saw 150 taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities. In the following days, Israel declared war on Hamas and launched counter-offensives that have left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead as of Saturday afternoon, according to Gazan health authorities.
A ground invasion of Gaza by Israel’s military is expected in the coming days, with Israeli authorities directing more than one million Palestinians to evacuate the northern region of the territory within 24 hours — an order that spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric wrote risks “devastating humanitarian consequences.” Hamas has instructed Gazans not to comply with the evacuation order.
At the rally, a spokesperson for the PSC who did not identify himself demanded Harvard urges federal officials to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and disclose direct and indirect investments in companies “complicit in genocide and human rights abuses towards Palestinians.”
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment for this article.
The PSC spokesperson also called on University President Claudine Gay to explicitly condemn doxxing attacks against students supporting Palestine.
“We need to condemn and reject the anti-Palestinian racism, doxxing, and harassment Harvard students are facing,” he said.
In a video message Thursday — her third statement since the attacks on Israel — Gay rejected calls to name and punish the students involved in a joint statement signed by the PSC and dozens of other student organizations last week that called the Israeli government “entirely responsible” for the violence. Gay stressed the University’s commitment to free expression.
“That commitment extends even to views that many of us find objectionable, even outrageous,” she said. “We do not punish or sanction people for expressing such views, but that is a far cry from endorsing them.”
The student groups’ joint statement sparked national outrage — from federal legislators to Fortune 500 CEOs to some of the University’s own top scholars — and was denounced by more than 4,000 Harvard affiliates across two open letters.
In the week since it was published, students affiliated with groups that signed onto the statement have faced threats and doxxing attacks, with a box truck displaying students’ names and faces circling Harvard’s campus on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. At least 10 groups have retracted their support for the joint statement since its publication.
Kojo Acheampong ’26, a co-founder of the African and African American Resistance Organization, said in a speech at the rally that the group is “in full support of the Palestinian resistance against the settler colonial apartheid regime that is Israel.”
“Marginalized people, oppressed people, colonized people are always demanded to justify their means of liberation,” Acheampong said. “They’re not terrorists.”
Acheampong drew comparisons to abolitionist and anti-apartheid movements throughout history, telling demonstrators that “history is on our side.”
“When people fought in apartheid South Africa, a system akin to Gaza’s and the West Bank’s, the US and the West vilified the people and labeled them as terrorists,” Acheampong said. “Today, we call them liberators.”
Acheampong and other speakers led chants to “free, free, Palestine,” “no justice, no peace,” and “no more funding Israel’s crimes.”
After the rally, a spokesperson for the PSC said not every speaker at the rally was a member of the organization, specifically referencing Acheampong.
“That specific member who spoke is not a member of PSC, and does not speak for PSC,” he said. “The PSC membership and leadership had not read the speeches prior to the rally or reviewed them.”
“We remain staunchly opposed against violence against civilians, and in no way endorse any message that condoms, tacitly or explicitly, violence against civilians,” he added. “That’s a red line for the PSC, and it’s a fundamental part of our effort for a non-violent struggle for a free Palestine.”
Andres Vega, a Boston resident who attended the rally, said he and his family “wanted to come in solidarity,” adding that “way more people” should have attended because of the importance of the issue.
“It’s the only way that we could see in the moment that we could be supportive and present,” Vega said.
This article will be updated.
Editor’s Note: Readers should note that premoderation has been turned on for online commenting on this article out of concerns for student safety.
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