Divest Harvard Protesters Arrested At HMC Building

UPDATED: April 12, 2016, at 11:44 p.m.

Police arrested several members of the student activist group Divest Harvard after they staged a sit-in within the lobby of the Boston Federal Reserve Tuesday afternoon, protesting Harvard Management Company’s investment in the fossil fuel industry.

Four members of Divest Harvard protested in the building, which houses HMC, the University’s investment arm that manages its $37.6 billion endowment. Members of Divest Harvard identified the arrested protesters as Naima Drecker-Waxman ’18, Applied Physics graduate student Benjamin Franta, School of Public Health student Rory Stewart, and Adam Cory Vander Tuig, a student at the Divinity School and Memorial Church seminarian.

About 25 students, faculty members, and alumni who support Divest Harvard held a rally outside of the building at the same time.

The four students had been sitting for about one to two hours before being escorted out of the building, according to Harvard Law School student Joseph “Ted” E. Hamilton, a plaintiff in a case against the University some members of the group filed in 2014.

Boston Police Department spokesperson Myeshia Henderson said that police had been dispatched to the Boston Federal Reserve building, located at 600 Atlantic Avenue in downtown Boston. She confirmed that four protesters had been arrested at the Federal Reserve building.

Harvard Law School student Kelsey C. Skaggs, a Divest Harvard member in attendance, said only four members of the group actually protested inside the lobby in order to avoid blocking normal access to the building, which also houses the Consulates General of Italy and Japan.

University President Drew G. Faust has held a firm stance against divesting from fossil fuel companies, even while facing numerous sit-ins and demonstrations by students, alumni, and faculty affiliated with Divest Harvard. She argues that Harvard’s endowment is not an instrument for political and social activism and that the University can best contribute to combating climate change through research and teaching.

“Like many peer institutions, Harvard is already acting on climate change through research that occurs across disciplines and throughout the world; through teaching and learning, by providing our students with the tools to confront this issue for generations to come; and on our campus, where we have already reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20 percent,” University spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in a statement.

Tuesday’s protest comes a little more than a month after Divest Harvard sent a letter to HMC President and CEO Stephen Blyth requesting a meeting to discuss the company’s policies and paths towards “sustainable investing.”

Skaggs said Divest Harvard has wanted to appeal directly to HMC for a while.

“Harvard Management Company is the entity that actually does the day-to-day work investing in fossil fuel companies,” Skaggs said. “So we thought it would be appropriate to take our message to this other important actor.”

Last spring, Divest Harvard was notably vocal in its efforts to pressure Harvard into removing its investments in the fossil fuel industry, staging a week-long blockade of Massachusetts Hall—which houses the offices of the University's central administration—they called “Heat Week.” Since then, the group has remained more quiet on campus and began a semester-long effort to refocus the group’s goals and tactics.

On Tuesday, Yale announced it would begin divesting its $25.6 billion endowment from fossil fuel companies, two years after its chief investment officer, David F. Swensen, wrote a letter to Yale’s investment managers asking them to consider “the impact of climate change essential when evaluating investment opportunities.”

—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at luca.schroeder@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.

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