NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Protesters wearing the colors of both Harvard and Yale staged a sit-in at midfield of Yale Bowl during halftime of the 136th edition of the annual football rivalry known as The Game. Most left after about an hour when they were escorted off by police; about two dozen who remained were told by police they were under arrest.
A few dozen protesters initially trickled onto the field as the Yale band finished performing its halftime routine. They held up banners asking the schools’ presidents to divest from the fossil fuel industry, while other signs raised issues of Puerto Rican debt and the treatment of the Uighurs.
Largely of college-age but with a few older protesters mixed in, the group chanted: “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!” One banner read “This is an emergency.”
In a statement distributed to reporters in the press box during the fourth quarter, Yale said it “stands firmly for the right to free expression.”
“While I respect the rights of Harvard and Yale students to protest, their efforts should not impact their fellow students’ ability to pursue their passions as athletes on the field of play, and those who support them,” Yale athletic director Vicky Chun said. “We are proud of our student-athletes and coaches for their resilience today in an extremely difficult situation.”
Police in yellow vests lined up alongside the sit-in but did not intervene. When the 15-minute halftime expired and the protest continued, hundreds more fans streamed onto the field to join in. Fans remaining in the stands began to boo, but only briefly.
Players tried to remain warm on the sideline in the mid-40 temperatures, but then returned to their locker rooms. Harvard coach Tim Murphy was given an update from the game officials and public safety officers as the protest continued.
The public address announcer implored the group to leave, repeating, “As a courtesy to both teams, the game must resume.” Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins spoke to the protesters over a megaphone, trying to convince them that they had made their point, but it would be lost if the situation escalated.
After about an hour, police formed a line and moved forward, from the Yale sideline toward the Harvard sideline. A protest leader encouraged all “internationals” to leave. An agreement was reached to escort the remainders off, with one police officer to every two protesters.
Those who did not leave were then informed by Higgins that they would be arrested. Asked how many people were taken into custody, Higgins referred questions to the police public information officer. Messages left with Yale and New Haven police were not immediately returned.
Between 20 and 30 protesters were arrested, according to organizers of the event. Rachel Sadoff, a junior at Harvard, said about 150 students from the two universities planned to participate in the protest. She said about 100 more students who had been sitting in the stands joined in.
“Our goal was to spread the word,” Sadoff said. “If more people speak up, our colleges will have to listen.”
She said those arrested were released and given a court date.
With Yale hoping to clinch an Ivy League title, Harvard led 15-3 at halftime and opened a 29-19 lead after three quarters. The Crimson led 36-22 with about seven minutes left in the game, and most of the 44,989 in the announced crowd had left.
Yale rallied with two touchdowns in the final 88 seconds to force overtime in the game, which started at noon and was still going when the sun set in New Haven at 4:26 p.m.
The Yale Bowl does not have lights.