Four members of the student activist group Divest Harvard were arraigned and charged with trespassing after staging a sit-in in the lobby of the Boston Federal Reserve, home to the offices of the Harvard Management Company, which manages Harvard’s $37.6 billion endowment.
About 25 members from the group protested against the University’s investments in the fossil fuel industry on Tuesday. Four members of the group physically occupied the Federal Reserve lobby and staged a sit-in for between one and two hours. They were later escorted out of the building by police and arrested.
The four students were released by the Boston Police Department that same day.
Members of Divest Harvard identified the arrested protesters as Naima Drecker-Waxman ’18, applied physics graduate student Benjamin Franta, School of Public Health student Rory Stewart, and Adam Cory Vander Tuig, a student at the Divinity School.
According to Franta and Harvard Law School student Kelsey C. Skaggs, a Divest Harvard member who attended the protest, the four activists were charged with trespassing. The charges were filed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Skaggs said.
On Wednesday, the four activists met with the claimant. The prosecutors did not ask for cash bail but requested to file a stay-away order against the activists while the case is pending. The court approved the order, said Jake Wark, a press secretary for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.
A pre-trial court date has been set for May 4 at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston.
The pre-trial will serve mainly an administrative role, Wark said, adding that in the past the pretrial proceeding has been used to resolve cases of peaceful protest ahead of actually reaching a conviction.
“It’s not a situation where we’re looking to secure a conviction,” Wark said. “We’re open to resolutions short of a criminal conviction, and we can pick that up at the next court date.”
“I think it’s very likely that we won’t have to go through an actual trial,” Drecker-Waxman said.
The protests came roughly a month after Divest submitted a letter to HMC President and CEO Stephen Blyth, requesting a meeting to discuss the company’s policies and paths towards “sustainable investing.” In a Tuesday press release, the group wrote that HMC had not yet responded to that request.
“University administrators, as well as members of the corporation and the HMC board, have met with advocates numerous times in recent years,” University spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an emailed statement. “We will respond to their most recent request for a meeting on these issues in due course.”
University President Drew G. Faust has held a firm stance against divesting from fossil fuel investments, arguing that Harvard’s endowment is not a tool for political and social activism. She instead advocates fighting climate change through research.
At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, 15 students were also arrested Tuesday during a sit-in to demand that the university’s Board of Trustees cease investing its $770 million endowment in the fossil fuel industry. Also on Tuesday, Yale began divesting its $25.6 billion endowment from fossil fuel.
—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ignacio_sabate.
—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.
Dissent: An Unnecessary InvestmentAs managers of such enormous endowments, institutions like Yale and Harvard have a responsibility to use their resources to further the mission of the institutions. Investing in companies who profit by destroying our future is incompatible with Harvard’s mission.
Harvard Corp. Leaders Tell Divest Activists University Moving Away from CoalWhile Corporation members maintained during the meeting that Harvard will not divest from the fossil fuel industry, they did say the University is currently not investing in the coal industry.
For a Carbon-Free Future, Divestment is the Wrong AnswerSimply put, it is the supply of and demand for fossil fuels that creates the valuations of energy companies, not the reverse. Divestment has no ability to alter these basic economic realities.
Despite Divest Cheers, Harvard Maintains Investment Approach
It’s Time for Harvard to Stop Funding Climate ChangeHarvard would do better investing according to its values, by ruling out positions that foment environmental harm, and simultaneously avoiding unsustainable investment practices.