Blockade Kicks Off 'Heat Week' as Divestment Call Escalates at Harvard

Members and supporters of activist group Divest Harvard hold signs and banners in front of Massachusetts Hall on Sunday night. The group says it plans to blockade the administrative building until Friday. (Photo: Alana M Steinberg/Daily Crimson)

Blockade Kicks Off 'Heat Week' as Divestment Call Escalates at Harvard

Approximately 200 students, alumni, and others participated in Sunday evening protest designed to increase pressure on elite school to withdraw financial investments from fossil fuel industry

Over 200 people on Sunday night--including students, faculty, alumni, and community members--initiated what they say will be a week-long blockade of Harvard University's main administrative building as they kicked-off a week of civil disobedience and direct actions designed to elevate and escalate an ongoing student-led campaign to force one of the nation's most elite post-secondary schools to divest its financial holdings from the fossil fuel industry.

Dubbed 'Harvard Heat Week,' the series of actions began on Sunday and will run through Friday.

"We're actually not that radical. We're not insane. We're genuinely frightened for our futures."
--Chloe Maxmin, Divest Harvard
The blockade of Massachusetts Hall, which houses the office of University President Drew G. Faust, followed a day of activities on campus which focused on the crisis of climate change and the national divestment movement in which schools, local governments, pension funds, religious institutions, and individuals have been urged to pull their investments from the coal, oil, and gas industries. Participants left an evening rally, marched across campus, and took up posts in front of various entrances to the building.

According to Divest Harvard, the group spearheading the activities, "Harvard Heat Week will bring together stakeholders to stand united and call on Harvard to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. The climate crisis leaves no room for neutrality, and we must be clear -- sponsoring the destruction of people and planet is NOT an investment."

Chloe Maxmin, a Harvard senior and co-founder of Divest Harvard, toldThe Daily Crimson, the school newspaper, that President Faust and the administration have "consistently ostracized" the students pushing for divestment and "used ever-changing statements" explaining their refusal to ditch fossil fuels.

"We're actually not that radical," said Maxmin. "We're not insane. We're genuinely frightened for our futures and truly believe that Harvard is sponsoring some of that fear."

Divest Harvard co-coordinator Jasmine P. Opie, a junior at Harvard, said the group has "spent a long time" presenting their arguments to the administration, but to no avail. "The point of our civil disobedience is not just out of the blue," she said.

Watch this footage produced by the Crimson:

And the Boston Globereported:

The protesters, who estimated that about 200 people took part, split into three groups to block the entrances to Massachusetts Hall, a building on campus that houses administrative offices as well as freshman dorm rooms.

The protesters said they saw about a dozen Harvard police present. The scene was peaceful, said Jasmine Opie, a junior at Harvard and a member of Divest Harvard, the group behind the protest.

"We are blocking the doors of the administrators to try to disrupt business as usual and the status quo of refusing to consider taking action against fossil fuel companies," Opie said, adding that she and some of the other protesters planned to stay overnight.

Bill McKibben, a Harvard alumnus and the leading voice and co-founder of the climate action group, was present at the event and said the blockade and the coming week of action is "intended to remind Harvard to do more than talk" about the dangers of climate change. "The worst case scenario," he said, "is where we are now. You know, Harvard has just been saying, 'Climate change a trouble, let's talk about it. It's a problem, let's bring in Charlie Rose and have a talk show.' That's the worst case scenario."

The organizers behind 'Heat Week' produced this video to explain their campaign and what's driving increasing numbers of people to support it:

Follow the hashtag #HarvardHeatWeak on Twitter for updates, photos, and reaction:

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