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Harvard Law Professor Criticizes ‘Homeland Security Feel’ Of ‘Overreaction’ To Occupy Harvard

In a letter to the president of Harvard University, Harvard Law School professor Duncan Kennedy criticized the lockdown of Harvard Yard against the 99 Percent movement. On Wednesday night, hundreds of Occupy protesters marched from a rally at Harvard Law School to enter the heart of the world’s most prestigious university, blocked by Harvard security forces who began closing the iron gates that are normally kept open 24 hours a day. Harvard students, allowed in after showing identification, set up about 20 tents in the yard with the help of other students who joined when word went out about the lockdown. Harvard Yard remains closed to people without university IDs.

It seems to me an overreaction to have closed the Yard to outsiders last night,” Kennedy wrote to Harvard President Drew Faust. He copied the email to numerous other professors; ThinkProgress received a copy from a third-party source. Kennedy politely argued against the “Homeland Security feel” of the security response:

I understand that it might have been the view of some that it was important to protect the symbolic center the University against an equally symbolic contamination by “outsiders,” or that there were other questions of “image” involved. But as a participant, the massive security presence, albeit friendly enough, had a Homeland Security feel to it. And I think it would be better now to allow free circulation of outsiders. Again, perhaps there has been an overreaction.

Kennedy, a 69-year-old Harvard ’64 and Yale Law ’70 graduate, is a prominent legal scholar and civil libertarian.

A student participant in Occupy Harvard calculates that “at least 30 percent of Harvard students are richer than the top five percent of earners,” and notes that Harvard is the “beneficiary of an enormous subsidy from the city of Cambridge, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the federal government” because it pays no taxes.

Timothy P. McCarthy, a Harvard Law School lecturer explained the relevance of a school-specific Occupy protest to the Crimson: “If Harvard is going to be a place that produces people with power, then Harvard must be an institution where the public good is more important than private profit.”

Download Duncan Kennedy’s letter.