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Northwestern activists claim they’ll die if university doesn’t divest from fossil fuels

Protest disperses so as not to ‘nationally embarrass’ university

Standing in the road is a more likely way to die than decades of slight warming in America’s heartland, but nobody accused Northwestern University student activists of using common sense.

The Daily Northwestern reports that Fossil Fuel NU members blocked the intersection that connects the private university’s Evanston and Chicago campuses on Friday morning. There were more than 60 protesters, “largely” students and some faculty.

It was their second disruptive protest in less than a month, following a “die-in protest and environmental justice teach-in” that failed to convince the board of trustees to divest from top oil and gas companies:

Protesters chanted “Disclose, divest or this will be our death,” and asked if NU’s investments were worth the University’s “soul,” in an effort to get the Board to recognize their concerns about climate injustice. …

Around 9:03 a.m., protesters gathered near the Arch, making their way across the busy intersection [of Sheridan Road and Chicago Avenue] two minutes later. With masks obscuring their faces, the protesters interlinked their arms and faced both sides of the road. In the center of the group was a banner that read, “Northwestern is Complicit in Climate Injustice.”

The trustees’ investment committee previously dismissed the activists’ divestment proposal as a virtue-signaling waste of time, saying it “would not have any impact on the ability of the targeted companies to conduct their businesses.”

One of the Daily‘s own staffers, design editor and sophomore journalism major Catherine Buchaniec, served as liaison to police, who warned protesters that a SWAT team might be “called to break up the group” if they didn’t stop blocking the intersection.

MORE: Student government asks Northwestern to punish disruptive protests

(Another design editor, Danu Mudannayake of the Harvard Crimson, led racially tinged protests against a Harvard law professor who served on disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein’s criminal defense team.)

The interaction of protesters and police took a comical turn as the former realized that they might be identified and subject to public scrutiny:

Toward the end of the protest, [Evanston police] parked a paddy wagon near to the protesters. A box of zip ties was visible to the group and onlookers. Officers at the scene also attempted to take photos of the protesters, but the group attempted to evade this by turning around and keeping their face coverings on. …

The police liaison [Buchaniec] was told that NU would be unable to get Board chairman J. Landis Martin on the phone. Following this, officers moved the paddy wagon to be directly in front of the blockade.

The group then dispersed as a unit off of Sheridan. Officers followed students off the sidewalk until they fully dispersed, Buchaniec said.

Buchaniec said the protesters left the road so as not to “nationally embarrass” Northwestern by being arrested.

The more plausible explanation: They didn’t want to suffer the consequences of flagrantly breaking the law and endangering authorized road users.

Read the new and previous reports on divestment activism.

MORE: What is it with design editors and campus protests?

IMAGE: Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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