Students at Harvard set up an encampment in protest of the war in Gaza, with about 10 tents on Harvard Yard by mid-afternoon.

The sit-in follows similar actions on campuses across the country, including local actions at MIT, Tufts and Emerson.

Hundreds of students gathered in Harvard Yard during a Wednesday afternoon rally.

A small group on Harvard Yard. Some tents are visible.
Students established an encampment on Harvard Yard in protest of Harvard’s investment in Israel on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. A few dozens students are seen from afar on Harvard Yard, which has been closed to the public.
Diane Adame GBH News

A Harvard Law student involved in the rally, Tala Alfoqaha, said the student activists are demanding the Harvard administration divest from companies tied to Israel.

“I'm Palestinian. I have family in Palestine, family members who've been killed. I've been waking up to images of bloodshed every single day for these past six, seven months — following an entire lifetime of of watching Palestinian death be treated as the status quo,” Alfoqaha told GBH News.

After the rally, Alfoqaha said other students promptly set up an encampment. She said Harvard's encampment will be there indefinitely.

“This is a nonviolent direct action to make sure that Harvard does not ignore the genocide that they are actively funding. So we're calling on Harvard to divest,” Alfoqaha said. “The fact that hundreds of people were able to rush to the yard only three hours after the protest was announced ... just shows how much students really, really care about this, how horrified they are about the genocide that's happening with our money in our name. And that students won't stand for it anymore.”

A statement posted on Instagram by various Harvard student groups demanded the university disclose investments “in Israel, the ongoing genocide in Gaza, and the occupation of Palestine,” that those funds be taken out and reinvested in Palestinian causes, and that any disciplinary charges be dropped against students who have been punished for their involvement in pro-Palestinian advocacy.

In a statement to GBH News, Harvard spokesperson Jason Newton said, “We are closely monitoring the situation and are prioritizing the safety and security of the campus community.”

Students are also supporting a student group that's at odds with university administrators, the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

Harvard leaders recently suspended the student group for the remainder of the spring semester after they took part in a rally last Friday in solidarity with student protestors at Columbia University, with administrators claiming the group violated Harvard rules on demonstrations. The Palestine Solidarity Committee had already been on probation since March.

Earlier today, the ACLU of Massachusetts sent a letter to Harvard, saying they were representing the Palestine Solidarity Committee in the matter, and raising questions about their probation status.

“While these are incredibly challenging times for educational institutions, the probation that's imposed on this particular student group — which is the only recognized pro-Palestinian organization at Harvard College — constitutes a breach of contract,” Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, told GBH News. “This is such a fraught political time, and the risks to freedom of speech and rights of association are at their highest. And it's just at this time that a university's commitment to protecting such rights is most critical.”

Wednesday's rally and the start of the encampment comes as Harvard has been trying to limit the possibility of protests by restricting public access to its campus.

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Corrected: April 26, 2024
This story was updated to clarify Tala Alfoqaha's involvement in the protest action on campus.