Boston-Area Students Rally for Fossil Fuel Divestment

More than 150 students from Harvard and other Boston-area colleges rallied Sunday afternoon at the Weeks Footbridge to continue pressuring their administrations to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies.

Canyon S. Woodward ’15, one of the rally coordinators, said that student protesters hoped to demonstrate to university presidents that divestment activists will not give up the cause until their objectives are met. The rally comes a little more than two months after Harvard President Drew G. Faust released a letter detailing the reasons for the University’s unwillingness to commit to divestment.

“The goal was to target all of our presidents of our respective universities and show them powerfully by coming together and pooling our resources that when they reject our demands for divestment, our campaigns will only escalate and build and ramp up the pressure,” Woodward said. He added that this was the first coordinated action between the divestment movements of Boston area schools.

The student-protesters—from Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, Tufts University, Brandeis University, MIT, Northeastern University, Wellesley College, Olin College of Engineering, and Lesley University—began the demonstration at the Weeks Footbridge on the Charles River. After draping much of the bridge under a one-thousand square foot banner emblazoned with the words “Divest from the Climate Crisis,” students heard from climate activist Tim DeChristopher, who co-founded the environmental group Peaceful Uprising.

The group then marched to Massachusetts Hall, where students read aloud from a letter addressed to Faust and written together by students from Harvard and peer institutions whose administrations have recently ruled out divestment.

“Our alums, our faculty and staff, and our students are what make our schools great,” the letter said. “We will leverage the collective power of these groups to demand our universities do what is right.”

Sunday’s protest and letter-delivery is part of a national movement; similar actions at Middlebury College and Pomona College are planned for Monday and were organized in coordination with the protest in Cambridge.

Luke T. Sherman, a Tufts student involved with the Tufts Divest for Our Future movement, said that he thinks the collaboration between divestment movements at different schools is beneficial because it enables organizers to share effective practices and spread their message to a wider audience. When one university agrees to divest, he added, others will likely follow suit.

“I think it will be a domino effect because it puts increased social pressure on those who are not agreeing to divest,” Sherman said. “Once it becomes more widely accepted by the global community and the academic community that our current investments in fossil fuel are socially toxic, it becomes harder and harder for those same universities not to believe the same ideology.”

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