THIS THE TRUST FUND CLUB?” shouted an #OccupyBoston protester in a black
hoodie, bandana and backpack, through the big metal fence surrounding Harvard Yard, at
around 10PM last Wednesday night -- the first night of #OccupyHarvard. Inside, a
small circle of frustrated freshman in sweatpants and maroon baseball
caps were yelling at Occupiers to “go home.”“NO,
THIS IS THE WE WORK OUR ASSES OFF CLUB,” responded a student in a grey Harvard
t-shirt. “SOME OF THE 99 PERCENT HAS TO WAKE UP FOR CLASS IN THE
roughly two hours after #OccupyHarvard’s first General Assembly, and tensions
between the university and the occupiers were already escalating. And now, almost a week later, Harvard Yard -- where 30 tents of protesters are occupying -- is still on a permanent lock down.Throughout
the first night, as students with Harvard IDs created an encampment, hundreds of other protesters, students, faculty, staff, and community members marched
and rallied on the perimeters, blocked by security guards from entering the
yard itself. Here's how that night went down.
When protesters and community supporters showed up at Harvard Yard on
Wednesday night at 7 PM -- where the first G.A. was scheduled to take place --
all entrances were locked. At one entrance stood a group of Harvard security
guards, only allowing students with Harvard IDs to enter. Some BU and Northeastern students wandered outside the gate, unsure where to go. Someone reported that the group would be meeting across the street instead.
As a small group huddled outside the Au Bon Pan across Mass Ave, a couple of reporters asked about the goals of #OccupyHarvard. Students explained: #OccupyHarvard's goal is to express solidarity with global Occupy movements. It is also to
“protest the corporatization of higher education, epitomized by Harvard University,” read a press release issued
by Occupy Harvard facilitators. “We see injustice in the 180:1 ratio between
the compensation of Harvard’s highest-paid employee, the head of internal
investments at Harvard Management Corporation, and the lowest-paid employee, an
entry-level custodial worker.”
Around 7:30, as the swarm of locked-out protesters grew, they decided to move their rally to the sidewalk outside of the yard’s main
entrance instead. The crowd was a mix of students, media, and community members, with a
large presence of the university’s janitors and their children. “We want a
university for the 99%” read most signs, while a few targeted labor issues
specifically, reading “HARVARD’S SWEATSHOP HOTELS EXPLOIT THE 99%.” Janitors
chanted “SI SE PUEDE” while students chanted “Education is a right, not just
for the rich and white.” Each human-mic outside of Harvard Yard was
echoed in both English and Spanish.
Around 7:45 PM, students and protesters marched towards the Harvard Law School lawn, an open space where the GA
would commence instead of on the Harvard Yard, as planned. “Harvard’s what hypocrisy looks like,” shouted marchers
as they took off down Mass Ave,
blocking traffic throughout Harvard
Square, interspersed with the usual “This is what
democracy looks like” chants.
to Occupy Harvard,” said one of the student-facilitators standing on a wooden
picnic table, once the 300ish-strong group reached the Law School
lawn. She then explained consensus decision making and modified
consensus, and made a list ("took stack") of everyone who wished to speak to the entire group. The GA’s speakers included staff, faculty,
residents, and reps from Occupy Boston and Occupy Cambridge, with some speaking in English and some
speaking in Spanish. One of those speakers was Dr. Timothy McCarthy, a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government:
“I've been at Harvard a long time, and I've never seen this many people at the gates trying to prevent people from entering Harvard Yard," said McCarthy to a crowd of hundreds, mostly sitting on the lawn. "At all
my time at Harvard I’ve never believed that the Harvard Law
School could be a more
free public space than the Harvard Yard."This is not the first time that the people have occupied Harvard," he added, reminding the
assembly that Harvard has been occupied before -- by troops during the Revolutionary War, and "when Harvard did not pay its janitors a living wage."
“And tonight, today, at this moment in our history, we must occupy again. Harvard employs the very people who were responsible for the global economic meltdown. And the political insitutions that facilitated it. And have created the suffering that engulfs not only this nation but the globe as whole ....Harvard has faculty that have made war more efficient. Harvard has economists that teach us that profits are more
important than people. And we are here today to say that peace is more important than war, to say that people are more important than profits, and to say that the majority is right and the minority is wrong at this hour in history."
"The one percent is scared because the ninety-nine percent is mobilized," McCarthy concluded. "We are the ninety-nine percent and it is time to take back this world."
A rep from #OccupyBoston followed. “Welcome to the revolution,” he said. “Come visit
us in Dewey… it is glorious but we need more people.”
were taken to determine what sort of action would be taken throughout the
night. “Let’s use our mass to do an act of nonviolent civil disobedience,”
suggested one protester. This idea was considered, but eventually,
through modified consensus, it was decided that the group would continue with
the original plan to try occupying Harvard Yard. “Congratulations,
we just made our first decision together,” said the facilitator after counting
there, the entire 300ish-strong group proceeded to Harvard Yard, attempting to
enter through a gate by the Harvard
but were locked out by police officers and security guards. One
protester hopped the fence and was detained, but quickly released.
police officers closed and locked one entrance, a large mob of protesters tried
to push its way in. As 50 or so students pushed and pushed and screamed at the
officers, the police pushed back.
shame, shame, shame,” protesters chanted.
massive group eventually left for the Mass
Ave entrance instead, soundtracked by the typical
chants -- “We are the 99 percent” and “This is what democracy looks like.” On the
way over, locked-in students conversed with locked-out students through the big metal fences. One student who was
locked in was lifted by his a friend, to climb over the fence and join the rally.
PERCENT, ONE PERCENT,” shouted a group of bro-y looking dudes from their dorm
room window on Mass Ave.
“OCCUPY J.P. LICKS FOR THEIR OVERPRICED ICE CREAM!” screamed one of them over a megaphone.
hundreds-strong group reached the Mass
Ave entrance -- also locked -- and all sat down. A
line of police officers stood at the gate, dividing a group of students
convened on the inside of the fence from everyone outside. A second impromptu
assebly ensued to decide the next course of action: should an exterior
occupation happen at the Science
Center lawn? Or the Holyoke center across the
street? Or should the protesters take to the streets and #OccupyMassAve?
to voice a concern based on the experience of Occupy Boston” said Nadeem, an #OccupyBoston
organizer, using the human mic. “A concern about the Science Center…
A lot of the success of Occupy has to do with visibility and continuity…. The
press … and the Harvardians … will come if you are visible. I suggest, don’t
tuck yourself away … And I appreciate your laughter, police officers. I know
you’re secretly with us.”
it was decided that it made most sense for students with IDs to enter and work
towards creating the camp, while everyone else decided on a solidarity action.
don’t have an ID and you want to stay in solidarity, please sit down,”
instructed a facilitator.
and tweets updated those outside of Harvard Yard on the activity of the
students inside. “Right now there is a yard GA happening inside,” said one occupier,
reading from her phone. “Occupiers are expressing hope that non-students will
be allowed in ASAP.”
broke into small groups to discuss solidarity actions.
of the revolution is building relationships with your neighbors," instructed a
facilitator. “Take a moment right now, turn to the person next to you,
the tense nature of the situation and students heckling from above, spirits
stayed high. “Can I get a temperature check if you recognize that this act of
us here using consensus is radical?” asked a facilator, met with a sea of high
finger-wiggling. She later called out: “MIC CHECK, How many people, think the
occupy movement, is pretty exciting? How many people, think the occupy
movement, can change the world?”
the group decided that the best solidarity action would be a march around the
march started slowly and quietly, eventually escalating from a few dozens to
50ish protesters, with chants like “FEED THE POOR, EAT THE RICH” and some
singing “Solidarity Forever.”
of about ten kids came out of their dorm rooms, most decked in Harvard apparel
and sweat pants, screaming through the Harvard Yard fences at protesters to
leave because they were trying to sleep.
THIS IS THE WE-WORK-OUR-ASSES-OFF CLUB,” responded a student in a gray Harvard
HEEEAR. YOUUUU,” screamed a few of the Harvard freshman in unison, through the fence, alternating chanting and clapping,
as if at a football game.
CHECK," said one. "I DON’T FEEL I HAVE TO BE RESPECTFUL TO HARVARD, BECAUSE I LIVE IN A COMMUNITY, THAT
HARVARD IS FUCKING OVER.” (She meant Allston.)
INTO HARVARD," shouted another. "I WAS THE TOP OF MY SCHOOL AT A PRIVATE
SCHOOL. I WAS A TOP ATHLETE AND THEN I GOT ILL. I HAVE OVER 100 GRAND IN MEDICAL BILLS. I
CAN'T BE HERE BECAUSE HARVARD’S SYSTEM DOES NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT PEOPLE LIKE ME.”
does not have to do with the issues!” screamed one student back across the
fence, a dude wearing sweatpants and a Harvard t-shirt. “You fucking selfish
narrow minded people need to shut the fuck up!
can only let so many people into a college!” screamed Harvard guy in
point, the security guards had locked down Harvard Yard completely, not even
letting in students with IDs.
next few minutes sounded like this:
“MONEY FOR JOBS AND EDUCATION
NOT FOR WARS AND CORPORATION.”
“What are all of these people
arguing about, I’m still a little unclear.”
"They’re fuckin’ narrow minded
piece a shits!”
“HARVARD OUT OF ALLSTON. HARVARD
OUT OF EXISTENCE.”
“There’s a fucking ton of huge
issues going on in the world more important than this!”
“This is hilarious.”
“WE ARE THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT.
YOU ARE THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT... Wait actually …”
“I just wanna go to my dorm.”
Near the fence, a Harvard kid in a purple button down
shirt and a skateboard walked over from his dorm, and said through the fence: “I want to
apologize on behalf of everybody who is not being a douchebag right now … not
all of us are like this. This is ridiculous. … these people who are screaming
at you…are ridiculous.”
Harvard kid said something similar. “Those kids are obviously douchebags but
they’re also probably on the lacrosse team so I’m not so surprised.”
crowds eventually cleared and calmed down, and security guards eventually let all students with
IDs into the Harvard Yard. From around 10:30 PM onwards, student organizers set up 30-something tents
surrounding a statue of John Harvard. Harvard Yard currently remains on
permanent lock down, with security guards regularly checking IDs at every
entrance. “We object
to the continued constraints and encourage the administration to restore full
and free access to the Yard,” said a statement passed by the #OccupyHarvard General
Assembly last Thursday night. “Our movement is made up of Harvard students,
staff, and faculty, and we pose no threat to the University or the ‘safety,
security, and well-being’ of fellow Harvard affiliates.” Occupy
Harvard’s statement of principles is online at occupyharvard.net/about.