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In Blockade’s Second Day, Divest Expands Protest to HAA

Group of alumni plan to stage overnight protest at the Harvard Alumni Association

By Mariel A. Klein, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: April 14, 2015, at 1:02 a.m. 

Environmental activist group Divest Harvard continued its planned blockade of Massachusetts Hall on Monday and expanded its demonstration to the Harvard Alumni Association, where 12 University alumni planned to stay overnight in protest of Harvard’s investment in the fossil fuel industry.

The second day of the planned weeklong protest, which organizers have dubbed “Harvard Heat Week,” followed a dramatic launch on Sunday night that involved a rally that drew at least 150 people who joined to blockade Harvard’s central administrative building.

A smaller group of protesters, including many undergraduates, camped out overnight through Monday morning, when they awoke to start the demonstration’s next day, which was punctuated by alumni rallies outside Mass. Hall and expansion to other parts of campus.

Protesters began their day early. Students who were blockading stirred from their sleep starting at around 6 a.m. Monday morning, rolling up their sleeping bags and readying themselves for another day blocking entrances to Mass. Hall. Eating cold pizza and reading lines from “Civil Disobedience in America: A Documentary History” by David R. Weber, the protesters spent the early morning decorating the building they blockaded with signs and banners reading, “Stand on the right side of history” and “Harvard Heat Week.”

Activists of “Harvard Heat Week” begin the day by hanging orange and black posters outside of Massachusetts Hall on Monday morning.
Activists of “Harvard Heat Week” begin the day by hanging orange and black posters outside of Massachusetts Hall on Monday morning. By Jennifer Y Yao

At about 10 a.m., alumni rallied outside Mass. Hall to hear speeches about climate change from prominent alumni, including Bill E. McKibben ’82, the leader of the environmental group and a former Crimson president, and former Colorado Senator Timothy E. Wirth ’61.

Throughout the day, protesters guarded the doors to Mass. Hall. No Mass. Hall administrators or staff members entered the building on Monday, according to Divest Harvard co-coordinator Talia K. Rothstein ’17. According to University spokesperson Jeff Neal, administrators relocated.

“In view of the group's having barred entry to Mass Hall, folks who normally work there are finding other places to work,” Neal wrote in a statement. University President Drew G. Faust, whose office is in Mass. Hall, has repeatedly argued against divestment and held a panel on Monday in which she discussed the importance of using research to combat climate change.

Early Monday afternoon, supporters of Divest Harvard expanded the demonstration in protest of Harvard’s investment in fossil fuel companies and gathered in the offices of the Harvard Alumni Association on Mt. Auburn Street. Once there, alumni signed pledge cards for a fossil-free fund, an alternative to donating to the University’s endowment, that stipulates Harvard will only receive donations if it divests. They delivered about 50 pledge cards with such donations of up to $5,000 to Shannon Gerah, the human resources director for Alumni Affairs and Development.

After delivering the pledge cards, demonstrators demanded a meeting with the organization’s leaders to talk about divestment, according to McKibben, who was still inside the office at about 7:30 p.m. Monday. When HAA did not agree to a meeting, according to McKibben, the group continued to protest in the office and refused to leave at the close of business hours.

“They write us numerous times each year asking us for stuff, so we thought it would be okay to ask for a meeting,” McKibben said in an interview over the phone from HAA’s offices.

Nine alumni protesters planned to stay overnight in the office, while another three planned to sleep in a hallway between the elevator and the office. According to McKibben, the office was blocked by Harvard Police, preventing the three in the hallway to join their fellow protesters. Despite the barrier, McKibben said the protesters’ interactions with the police have been “very friendly”; they spent the evening discussing the Red Sox opener, he said.

 HUPD officers greet each other as they change shifts on Monday morning outside of Massachusetts Hall where "Harvard Heat Week" activists had been sleeping.
HUPD officers greet each other as they change shifts on Monday morning outside of Massachusetts Hall where "Harvard Heat Week" activists had been sleeping. By Jennifer Y Yao

The day culminated in a nighttime vigil outside Mass. Hall led by Divest Harvard alumni coordinator Benjamin A. Franta, before protesters prepared to sleep outside the building overnight again.

Protesters ranging from Harvard students to alumni participated throughout the day. During the alumni rally, Susan Ringler ’74, a Cambridge resident who said she divested her personal portfolio five years ago, said Divest Harvard “specifically chose a very symbolic thing that would actually not disrupt the important work that many thousands of people do at Harvard.”

“Harvard has a really important place as a beacon,” she added. “When Harvard does something, people listen.”

Still, not all protesters present Monday advocated for divestment. In the early afternoon, Daniel E. Golliher ’14 held a sign reading “Don’t Divest.”

“I'm here because I think fossil fuels are a moral good," he said, referencing philosopher of energy Alex Epstein.

Divest Harvard has said it will blockade Mass. Hall until Friday, April 17. This planned protest follows other smaller-scale demonstrations by the group. Late last spring, students—including an undergraduate who was arrested but not chargedblockaded Mass. Hall in a similar protest, and this February, Divest Harvard staged a 24-hour occupation of the building.

—Staff writers Noah J. Delwiche, Theodore R. Delwiche, Andrew M. Duehren, Jiwon Joung, and Henry S.U. Shah contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Check and follow @thecrimson on Twitter for updates.

—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mariel_klein.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 14, 2015

An earlier verison of this article incorrectly stated the time at which Daniel E. Golliher '14 protested in Harvard Yard. In fact, he was there in the early afternoon, not 10 a.m.

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