In the evening hours of April 12 and 13, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Police arrested several students protesting at the Whitmore Administration Building on the campus.
According to students, the sit-in was protesting UMass Amherst’s decision to continue investments in fossil fuels.
On the evening of April 12, about 50 demonstrators participated in the action with 15 arrests on the basis of trespassing. On April 13, about 250 students showed up for the sit-in with 19 arrests for the same reason.
Warnings were issued throughout both evenings for occupiers to leave the Whitmore Administration Building.
UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, a student-run organization, is the force behind these protests. They are making demands to the UMass Amherst administration regarding cessation from all investments in fossil fuels.
In total, the privately-run UMass Foundation manages a $770 million endowment and also holds investments in the fossil fuel industry.
On April 12, Edward Blaguszewski, executive director of strategic communications and special assistant to the vice chancellor at UMass Amherst, released an official statement on the university's website in which he pointed out that “the UMass system leaders today said they would advocate for a policy that would see the five-campus UMass system divest and prohibit direct investment in fossil fuel companies.”
Furthermore, the statement quoted Victor Woolridge, chairman of UMass’ Board of Trustees, and Marty Meehan, president of the UMass system, in support of reducing investments in the fossil fuel industry as “a logical next step.”
Over the course of the last year, UMass has already divested its direct investments from coal companies. In regards to the protests, Meehan stated that “although we find ourselves meeting in a moment of contention, I embrace and I believe that the University leadership broadly shares the goals that the divest-campaign students have been advocating for.”
According to the statement, a proposal to cut financial ties to the fossil fuel industry will be discussed at upcoming meetings by the UMass Board of Trustees, the UMass Foundation, and the UMass Foundation Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee.
Meanwhile, protesters arrested on April 12 have already appeared at Eastern Hampshire District Court the next day. They were given probationary terms after pleading not guilty.
According to the district attorney’s office, they will have to pay a probation fee while also partaking in community for a period of four months.