Noelle Swan

Occupy Harvard Students Under Lockdown

Noelle Swan
New England Post
November 14, 2011
 

It just got harder to get into Harvard.

Harvard University Police Department has placed the area under lockdown. The majority of the gates have been closed. The few that remain open are policed by HUPD. A valid Harvard Universiy ID or course registration paperwork is now required of all individuals entering the yard.

“The institution’s claim is that this is for safety reasons,” said Professor Timothy McCarthy, before adding, “Seems a bit of an overreach for the institution.”

Where Occupy Boston has been called a tent city, Occupy Harvard is a tent hamlet. Just couple dozen tents have sprouted up on Harvard Yard in solidarity with the Occupy movement that has erupted all around the world. The police presence, however, is remarkably similar.

Safety has been an issue at many protest campsites. There have been reports of isolated incidents of rape at Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Cleveland. At Occupy Boston, the safety team has evicted participants caught using intravenous drugs and Boston Police have made several arrests for drug possession.

A former Harvard student from Sri Lanka who has been to Occupy Boston in Dewey Square and supports the movement said that he also understands the need for heightened security at Occupy Harvard. “The university has a responsibility to keep these students safe.”

Jeff Bridges, a third-year student at Harvard Divinity School, said that Harvard administration could have provided better security if it simply monitored the camp and left the rest of the Yard alone. “It isn’t about security,” he said, “The Harvard administration is trying to turn the campus against us.”

The brick-and-iron gates of Harvard Yard surround some two dozen buildings, including dormitories, libraries, a church, and lecture halls, in addition to large quad spaces where the students, tourists, and community members sit and stroll. What once was a calm and vibrant community space is now quiet. Students and employees cluster at the gates, impatiently waiting to show their IDs and funnel into the yard for class, to get to their dorms, to head to the library.

Murmurs and grumbles can be heard all around campus.

One young man caught up to a friend and apologized for being late, “I forgot my ID, had to go all the way around the yard.”

Over coffee at a local café, two young women complained about how much time it took to pass through the security checkpoint on their way to class.

McCarthy himself got into an argument at the gate when he refused to show his ID on his way to teach his American Protest Literature class. “I had to go teach—ironically teaching Martin Luther King and Malcolm X the civil disobedience during the civil rights movement. I wouldn’t show my ID. I was like ‘I’m not playing this game. I am not producing the thing that this institution has given me to authorize my entrance into this place. Not so long as it’s being policed.’”

In the end, McCarthy produced his ID and made it to class. He said that he walks a fine line when pushing up against individual law enforcement. “The people who are being employed as security guards and policemen and women are our brothers and sisters. They’re members of this community.”

McCarthy admits to having friends in the administration, though he said he strongly opposes the university’s decision to restrict First Amendment Rights. “The administration of Harvard University is violating freedom of assembly in the most general sense by saying that Harvard is off limits to those that they have not granted the authority to enter their private space.”

McCarthy believes that Harvard has drawn a very dangerous line. “We are now all near that line,” he said. “We have to figure out as members of this community where we want to be and how comfortable we are with the way that the institution that employs us, or admits us, or tolerates us has drawn a line in the sand.”

No one from Harvard was available for immediate comment.

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