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Democracy Center Protesters Stage ‘Emergency Rally’ with Pro-Palestine Activists Amid Occupation

No protesters were removed from the premises or arrested, and the occupation remained ongoing as of Thursday morning.
No protesters were removed from the premises or arrested, and the occupation remained ongoing as of Thursday morning. By Elyse C. Goncalves
By Elyse C. Goncalves, Crimson Staff Writer

More than 60 activists protested outside of the Democracy Center Wednesday in an “emergency rally” to prevent what they called an “expected police raid” as an occupation of the building continued into its third day.

But while the protest drew a significant police presence, including road closures, no protesters were removed from the premises or arrested. The occupation remained ongoing as of Thursday morning.

Demonstrators have been occupying the building at the corner of Mount Auburn and DeWolfe Streets since Monday, the date the Democracy Center was set to close for renovations. The center’s closure, announced in April, has drawn intense backlash from local organizers who use the space for meetings and events and who say their input has been ignored.

Sue Heilman — the interim executive director of the Foundation for Civic Leadership, which funds the center — wrote in a statement Wednesday that the protesters were in the building “illegally” and were “not constructive.”

“The protesters’ repeated refusal to peacefully and safely leave gives us no choice but to ask for assistance. Their language on social media has also raised concerns,” she wrote.

Throughout Wednesday morning, protesters chanted on the sidewalk and steps in front of the center until police officers cordoned off part of Mt. Auburn Street, at which point protesters began moving in a circle on the street in front of the center.

The police blockage caused traffic down Mt. Auburn Street and disrupted the flow of traffic in the surrounding area for just under an hour. CPD spokesperson Robert Goulston wrote in a statement that police had been present to manage the protest, not to remove protesters from the premises.

“CPD helped provide ample space for the protesters and helped keep traffic flowing,” Goulston wrote.

Still, the police response appeared to prompt the resignation of Democracy Center Manager Elizabeth Rucker, according to a video posted on Instagram Wednesday.

“This morning, at 11:50 a.m., I resigned my position effective immediately due to FCL using the police to try to remove our comrades from the building,” Rucker stated in the video.

Rucker’s resignation follows that of Aaron K. Tanaka ’04, who publicly announced his resignation from the FCL board in an open letter to center affiliates Sunday.

Just before 1 p.m., approximately 30 protesters — who had been participating in a protest at the central Cambridge offices of Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of an Israel-based defense contractor — marched down Mt. Auburn Street towards the center and joined the demonstration.

One organizer led the protest circle with a microphone, criticizing Ian Simmons, the president of the FCL, for allowing the Democracy Center to host “Zionist events” — an apparent reference to the utilization of the center by MEOR, which describes itself as a Jewish education and mentorship organization on its website.

“The systematic closure of accessible spaces where the infrastructure of our movement can gather without censorship accessibly is going to affect our ability to organize,” the organizer said. “The loss of these spaces is an attack on the entire movement in the city.”

An FCL spokesperson declined to comment on the remark.

All police officers and firefighters had left the center by 2 p.m.

—Alma T. Barak and Ben Ali H. Brown contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Elyse C. Goncalves can be reached at Follow her on X @e1ysegoncalves or on Threads @elyse.goncalves.

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