Harvard Yard will be closed “for the time being” to anyone without a Harvard identification in the wake of last night’s Occupy student protests, the university announced today.
A Harvard official also said that a university police officer was “roughed up” at the protest -- elbowed and pushed -- as protesters pulled at his gun belt and stole his radio.
The identity of the offenders is unknown, but the Harvard official said the incident happened about 10 p.m. as a mass of students and protesters pressed against a locked iron gate between Harvard Yard and a university science building, trying to enter the quad. Tension was running high as crowds chanted and music blared from a nearby diversity festival. Though many in the crowd were Harvard students or staff, others were not affiliated with the university. Several protesters wore black scarves half-covering their faces.
The rush on the gate was a major reason the yard was closed for an extended period of time last night even to Harvard students, who were ultimately let in after showing identification cards.
About half an hour after the incident, Harvard students set up more than 20 tents near the John Harvard statue. This evening, they may remain there or move the tents to another quad upon the request of a Harvard dean.
Harvard released a statement today explaining its decision to close the yard. “The university has a fundamental obligation to be attentive to the safety, security, and well-being of its students, faculty, and staff on campus. The events of last night raised safety concerns: The number of demonstrators was large, many of the demonstrators were not from Harvard, and specific behaviors were troubling,” it said. “For this reason, the university took what we consider to be appropriate security precautions as the situation evolved during the evening.
“The decision by students and other members of the Harvard community to erect tents in the yard will require that the university continue with heightened security measures for the time being,” the statement continued. “Most importantly, no one without a Harvard identification will be permitted into the yard. We recognize and apologize for the inconvenience this will cause to students, faculty, staff, and neighbors. But securing access to the yard is necessary for the safety of the freshmen and others who live and work in the yard, for the students who will be sleeping outdoors as part of the protest, and for the overall campus.”Mary Carmichael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.