To: President Drew Faust, Office of the President of Harvard University
President Faust: Investigate the anti-Ukrainian actions of the Harvard police and rescind the ord...
On Sunday May 11, conductor Vladimir Spivakov, a supporter of Russian President V. Putin and his military aggression against Ukraine, performed with his orchestra at Harvard University, drawing a protest outside Sanders Theater.
For two months preceding the concert, several faculty members and a number of activists reached out to Harvard administration to discuss appropriateness of hosting Spivakov's concert at Harvard. Unfortunately, the University completely ignored all attempts at dialogue.
Mr. Spivakov's concerts drew protests all over United States and Canada. Unfortunately, among all the protest locations, Harvard University Police distinguished themselves as particularly zealous in enforcing University's apparent anti-Ukrainian stance. In a bizarre development, police officers confiscated any bouquets containing yellow and/or blue flowers (colors of Ukrainian flag), as well as any yellow or blue fliers, from the hands of concert-goers, turning the concert into a political event. HUPD also made it difficult for Professor Lubomyr Hajda, the Associate Director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, to distribute fliers about an upcoming symposium on Crimea.
Inside the concert hall, activist and Harvard University alumnus Roman Torgovitsky, Ph.D., staged a peaceful protest at the end of the performance, highlighting Spivakov's political stance and proposing a dialogue. Harvard police arrested Dr. Torgovitsky for allegedly "disorderly conduct" and put no trespass order on him with no expiration date. Although, as evident in video footage, his protest was non-violent and in no way posed a threat to either the performers or the audience, he is now permanently banned from campus. Not surprisingly, the "disorderly conduct" charge against Dr. Torgovitsky was swiftly dismissed by a judge the following morning, and yet Harvard police still plans on enforcing the permanent no-trespass order.
This incident has been widely covered in the media in Russia, Ukraine, Canada and US, including in a number of Boston outlets (see below) but, as of today, produced no response from Harvard University Administration and Harvard University Police Department.
We call on you to engage in an open dialog on freedom of expression at future events featuring artists supporting Putin's regime, such as D. Matsuev, scheduled to appear at Harvard in June. As part of that process, we call on you to investigate the anti-Ukrainian actions of HUPD and to rescind the order against Dr. Torgovitsky.
The Harvard Crimson: Demonstrators Protest Pro-Putin Violinist’s Sanders Performance
The Harvard Crimson: Man Protesting Violinist Arrested During Sanders Concert Sunday
Cambridge Day: Conductor Spivakov’s politics draws call for boycott of May Harvard performance
Cambridge Day: Harvard officer’s account, video disagree on arrest of Russian conductor’s protester
Cambridge Day: Harvard treads tragically compromised ground in response to Spivakov protest
Why is this important?
For the duration of Mr. Spivakov's concert at Harvard's Sanders Theater, Harvard's self-proclaimed adherence to the restrictions imposed on power structures by the 1st Amendment was apparently suspended in favor of the norms of modern-day Russia, where suppression of opposing views is the every-day reality. Harvard University Police, hired by the organizers of the concert, zealously enforced these restrictions-- just like in Russia, any items, such as flowers or fliers, featuring the colors of Ukraine's flag (blue and yellow) were not allowed in the theater, and a member of the audience who asked Mr. Spivakov an unflattering question was arrested on charges that came apart at the seams in court the very next morning. However, even though he is a Harvard alumnus, he is still and indefinitely barred from setting foot anywhere on his alma mater's campuses. If you'd rather this didn't become the norm at Harvard or elsewhere in civilized world, please sign our petition.