The rally and press conference, which student organizers had planned ahead of the Court’s decision on affirmative action, showcased members from various advocacy organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The press conference, which was scheduled for Thursday in Washington, had to be moved indoors due to poor air quality conditions. The National Committee on Building Legislation made this decision in consideration of the well-being of their friends.
Nahla C. Owens ’25, who demonstrated in favor of affirmative action, expressed, “We shouldn’t let SFFA speak for people who are supposed to be the ones applying and we couldn’t just stand aside because the original intention wasn’t for this to affect air quality.”
When it was announced, Owens said her “heart was sinking” in the Harvard case, she was not surprised by the Court’s decision.
My grandma, who had been working hard to desegregate her school district, expressed her disappointment, stating, “truthfully, it feels like a disrespectful act to witness the reversal of the advancements that her generation and she herself had tirelessly strived for.”
While organizers conducted the press conference at the FCNL establishment, students led a demonstration a block away, at the Capitol.
The protest was completely organized by students – a departure from the initial intention to demonstrate alongside experienced organizers, as stated by Hana R. O’Looney ’26.
Elyse G. Smith-Martin, the chair of the Harvard Black Students Association, stated that “students were not allowed.” In fact, they decided to move indoors.
“It’s really important to us that we, as student voices who are directly impacted by this work, have the opportunity to express ourselves.”
Because there were reports about a ‘suspicious package,’ the police relocated both groups from the courthouse. Shortly before the students intended to address the public, the Asian American Coalition for Education also organized an open-air media briefing.
At one point, there was a confrontation between two groups gathered on the edge of the Capitol grounds, with demonstrators taking both affirmative and anti-action.
He mentioned that he had a conversation with an older woman that escalated very rapidly — Kashish Bastola, who flew from Washington to St. Louis on Thursday morning, ’26.
Bastola stated, “Furthermore, she mentioned that she does not even consider herself as a person from South Asia and believes that our nation has been plagued by racial issues. I inquired, ‘Are you satisfied with your actions? Do you believe you are effectively representing our community?'”
It’s really sad to think that if you look around right now, you’ll clearly see the division and fighting that we’ve been against.
Student speakers expressed their dedication to holding their schools responsible, while student organizers led cheers and delivered speeches once the SFFA supporters relocated from the street.
“We need to exert pressure not just on the educational institutions we belong to,” Martin-Smith stated.
“She added, ‘Some ways to enhance admissions include donor contributions and legacy considerations. Harvard has many ways to improve. Personally, I will be under a lot of pressure to excel at Harvard.'”
Claudine Bastola, the President-elect of Harvard, also mentioned that administrators can anticipate ongoing discussions on ethnic and cultural studies in reference to the incident that occurred last year at Leverett House, the dormitory where the swatting attack took place in April.
Despite being disappointed by Thursday’s decision, supporters of affirmative action remained hopeful for a path forward.
Dian Yu ’26, who also participated in the demonstration, remarked, “There are many other ways to assess someone’s identity, as we still hold a lot of hope.”
She added, “There is still room for people to contribute in various ways, such as interviews, essays, and discussing their identities in their lives, because I feel like people still want to talk about their identities.”
“I still believe there is a great deal we can accomplish,” she included.
In the future, Crawford expressed his “apprehension” about witnessing alterations in the student population. Joel O. Crawford ’26, an intern at the House of Representatives, left his job to observe the protest after learning about the verdict.
He mentioned that there is a significant amount of ambiguity in how schools can operate and in how they are allowed to use race as a factor in affirmative action, even after reading it now.
Owens stated, “It is their duty to make sure that they maintain a varied student body at their educational institutions.” Owens expressed, “This is not the end. I do not want universities to believe they have an escape route or a justification.”