19 UMass students arrested at fossil fuel divestment protests

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AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – More than 200 students at UMass Amherst held another protest Wednesday night demanding that the university divest investments in fossil fuel companies.

In a statement from UMass Spokesman Ed Blaguszewski, student protesters filled the Whitmore Administration Building after regular business hours. He said UMass Police warned the students they would be arrested if they didn’t leave the building voluntarily.

UMass Police arrested 19 students and charged them with trespassing starting around 6:00 p.m., Blaguszewski said. On Tuesday, 15 students were arrested after they held a sit-in at the Whitmore building.

Blaguszewski said UMass system leaders pledged support to a “policy that divests and prohibits direct investment in fossil fuel companies.”

One of the protest organizers, UMass sophomore Mica Reel, told 22News support isn’t enough, students want a pledge for action. “The president and the chairman have expressed support for divestment and we just want to make sure that they see the urgency that we do on this issue. The fossil fuel industry is incredibly destructive, and it’s destroying the most marginalized communities and it’s also destroying communities around here.”

22News spoke with Filipe Carvalho, who also helped organize the protest. He said students appreciate UMass’ pledge to “advocate” for divestments. However, he said a pledge to advocate isn’t enough. Carvalho explained students want action, not words

UMass President Marty Meehan said last year UMass stopped investing in coal companies, so divesting in fossil fuels is a “logical next step.” He said UMass will address the issue at upcoming meetings over the next three months.

Carvalho said until UMass pledge’s to fully divest, students will continue their protests.


Below is Ed Blaguszewski’s full statement regarding the protest and the proposal:For a second night, student protesters chose to occupy the Whitmore Administration Building despite a pledge from University of Massachusetts system leaders that they will support a policy that divests and prohibits direct investment in fossil fuel companies.The decision-making authority regarding management of the university’s five-campus endowment ultimately rests with the Board of Directors of the University of Massachusetts Foundation, which is guided in such matters by an investment committee and professional investment advisors.Victor Woolridge, chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, and UMass President Marty Meehan have said divesting direct investments in fossil fuel companies represents “a logical next step” to the action UMass took last year when it divested its direct investments in coal companies. Woolridge and Meehan announced their support for the new step as UMass trustees met at UMass Dartmouth.The two UMass system leaders said the relevant UMass bodies – the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, the University of Massachusetts Foundation, and the University of Massachusetts Foundation Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee – would address the proposal at their upcoming meetings, gatherings that would occur over the next three months.Students continued their occupation of the building after it closed for business and following warnings by UMass Police that they would be arrested if they did not voluntarily leave. University buildings have regular public operating hours. When buildings are closed for business and are no longer staffed, standard protocols require that members of the public depart to ensure public safety and the protection of property within the building.Following the students’ insistence to remain in the building, UMass Police arrested 19 protesters and charged them with trespassing starting around 6 p.m.

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