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Video: UMW Students Forcibly Removed & Arrested During Peaceful Sit-In for Fossil Fuel Divestment


From the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN):

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – A 21-day, peaceful student sit-in for fossil fuel divestment at the University of Mary Washington was forcibly ended Wednesday night after university officials called in the state police to evict the students. Over 20 students with the group Divest UMW were forcibly removed from an administrative office, and two students and one community member were arrested and charged with trespassing. Video of the arrests is available from a Free Lance-Star reporter who was on the scene.

The Divest UMW sit-in began three weeks ago after the university’s Board of Visitors rejected-without any deliberation or discussion-students’ simple proposal to establish a subcommittee to study the issue of divesting their endowment from fossil fuels.

Today, the university’s Board of Visitors will formally meet on campus for the first time since the student sit-in began, and students are holding a march and “Rally for Student Voice” in response starting at 3:00 p.m. (Follow @DivestUMW on Twitter for updates.)

As reported by the Free Lance-Star, board members appeared divided on the issue during a meeting held on campus yesterday to discuss approval of minutes from the March meeting in which Rector Holly Cuellar dismissed the students’ proposal. Member Carlos del Toro reportedly said, “I, as one member of this board, think additional recommendations should be made considering divestment. I believe there needs to be further discussion. I believe I am not alone in this opinion.”

Drew Gallagher, Campus Organizer at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, had the following statement in response to the forcible eviction and arrest of students:

“We’re disappointed that University of Mary Washington officials resorted to calling in the state police to end a 21-day, peaceful sit-in for fossil fuel divestment. These students have shown remarkable leadership in their fight to remove morally unacceptable investments in the fossil fuel industry from their university’s endowment. We need this same leadership from school officials and the Board of Visitors. Restricting free speech and assembly will not solve the climate crisis. We urge UMW officials to drop the charges against their students, and work with them for climate solutions.

“Students from across the country understand the severity of the climate crisis, and are leading the way in demanding solutions. So far, over 20 colleges and universities across the country have stood with students and pledged to divest from the fossil fuel companies wrecking their future. University of Mary Washington administrators are facing growing protests because, like those at Harvard, Tulane, the University of Colorado, Yale, and Swarthmore, they have so far stood on the wrong side of history. By ignoring the voices of their students on fossil fuel divestment, University of Mary Washington officials are failing to heed the warnings of scientists-including those on their own campus.”

  • JHooe44

    While climate change is a noble and URGENT issue, this whole “sit-in” was a non-starter. Did the students have reasonable alternatives to ensure that University functions would not be hindered? Such as travel for athletic teams, use of University-owned vehicles for academic trips, or (more simply) how to heat the dorms? I’m guessing not – these were idiot hippies who wanted to do something “cool.” Good job, guys. You helped your beloved UMW make the news for something stupid. Again. Hello, rugby chants!

    Also, news flash – I’m fairly certain UMW is powered by the power plant at Lake Anna, which is nuclear power. So, again, a swing and a miss. Does nuclear power have its own issues? Sure. But it’s not like UMW is drawing its power from a coal plant. Sheesh.

    Climate change is arguably the most pressing issue of our generation. But I highly doubt that 20-some-odd kids at a small community liberal arts school in Virginia are going to figure out how to deal with an international crisis. And it’s certainly not going to be done with something as ridiculous as this stunt while international leaders, by and large, are just now beginning to recognize the urgency of the issue.

  • Can we please remember this the next time Will & O’Reilly accuse America’s college campuses of being “liberal”?

    These kids are among the few infusing the climate crisis with the immediacy & urgency the issue so desperately deserves. If you have better ideas, let’s hear them. If not, maybe understand how your THESE KIDS TODAY comments are going to be received.