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Pro-Palestinian Activists Protest Nancy Pelosi, One Arrested at Harvard Club Event in SF

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a small group holds up signs and a banner that says 'quit US war' in a park
A group of Harvard alumni and Bay Area community members protest during the Harvard Club of San Francisco’s 150th anniversary celebration where the House Speaker emeritus was honored on Monday, May 20, 2024. (Gina Castro/KQED)

Roughly 30 people protested outside the Harvard Club of San Francisco’s 150th anniversary event on Monday evening, where former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was being honored. One protester was arrested after entering and disrupting the ceremony.

“Doing a celebratory dinner for someone who has been an active supporter of the state of Israel of someone who has personally profiteered from the war, to me, is unconscionable,” said Harvard alumna Kate Sim, one of the two protesters who entered the event and disrupted Pelosi’s speech. Sim was ultimately escorted out but not arrested.


The sold-out event was held at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio, where Pelosi received an award for “distinguished citizen of the year.” The protesters, the majority of whom said they were alumni of Harvard, mostly remained outside the event. A few who attempted to enter the building were quietly turned away by police at the door.

After the arrest of the one protester who entered the event with Sim, the group attempted to block the police car the protester was put into — which was eventually able to drive away.

police lead away a woman in handcuffs
One protester was arrested after entering and disrupting the Harvard Club’s 150th anniversary event. (Gina Castro/KQED)

This action comes alongside a steady stream of protests, marches, encampments and strikes on college campuses and across the Bay Area recently, calling on government leaders to end U.S. involvement and military aid to Israel. The protesters on Monday also responded to Harvard’s recent decision to suspend five students involved in pro-Palestine activism and place more than 20 on probation, along with stopping 14 students from receiving their degrees at commencement, according to the Harvard Crimson.

“Shame on Harvard and Pelosi for this senseless gala as we embark on the seventh month of the genocide,” organizers told KQED before the protest. “Pelosi has consistently aided and abetted this genocide and conflict in the region, using tax dollars that should care for our communities. If anyone should be honored, it should be those at the frontlines of Palestine resistance and the brave students and workers enacting solidarity.”

Students and activists allege that Harvard broke its agreement with campus demonstrators who participated in a 20-day pro-Palestine encampment at the university, led by Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine (HOOP), the unrecognized pro-Palestine coalition of student groups.

“For other similar student protests, precedent is dropping charges and refraining from imposing severe consequences. This was the outcome for student organizers in the South Africa Apartheid encampment, Living Wage occupation of Mass Hall, Fossil Fuel divestment blockades and Belinda Hall occupation,” the Harvard Palestine Solidarity group wrote on Instagram. “The precedent is clear: drop the charges and do not heavily discipline students for calling for disclosure and divestment.”

A group of protesters holds signs outside the Harvard Club of San Francisco’s 150th-anniversary celebration, where Nancy Pelosi was honored on Monday. (Gina Castro/KQED)

Sim said that in addition to calling for divestment from Israel and an immediate cease-fire, they also asked for Harvard to nullify the suspensions. She added that they’d be happy to have an “honest conversation” with Pelosi but also said they plan to continue to disrupt any Pelosi events. “Not another nickel, not another dime. We do not want our money funding this genocide,” she said.

More than 35,000 people in Gaza have been killed in Israel’s ground and air assaults, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, since the Oct. 7 attacks when Hamas militants killed 1,200 Israelis and took more than 250 hostages.

Since then, protests have erupted across the Bay Area, including at several major college campuses, such as the University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco State University, the University of San Francisco and Stanford.

This story includes reporting from KQED’s Christopher Alam.

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