Things That Matter

Activists Interrupt Harvard-Yale Football Game To Protest Climate Change And Cancel Puerto Rico Debt Holdings

The Harvard-Yale football game was delayed during halftime on Saturday after more than 150 students and alumni took to the field to protest against the schools’ endowments from fossil fuel companies and Puerto Rican debt. The scene was captured across social media as videos were shared of students unfurling banners that read “Nobody wins. Yale & Harvard are complicit in climate injustice,” among others signs.

The annual football game between both Ivy League schools was delayed for almost an hour as police demanded over speakers that protesters leave the field. In videos, you can hear protesters chanting “disclose, divest and reinvest,” as more fans from the stands joined protesters on the field. The end result was 42 people being charged with disorderly conduct, protest organizers had initially said that 20 to 30 protesters were arrested.

“Students are tired of Harvard and Yale profiting off of climate destruction and neocolonial investments in Puerto Rico’s debt,” a statement by student group Divest Harvard read. “It’s time for more than lip service and greenwashing from academic leaders. Harvard and Yale must address the climate emergency at the scale and with the urgency it demands. This action is only the beginning.”

The reason behind the protest was to speak up against the schools to divest from fossil fuels and cancel their Puerto Rico debt holdings, among other issues. 

While there was some initial confusion behind the reasoning of students taking the field, the message was clear that there was anger at both Yale and Harvard financial dealings. According to Vox, both of the schools “rely on funds, bonds, and assorted financial instruments to keep their endowments strong”. Many students and alumni are looking at the schools profiting from the ongoing climate crisis and want them to divest their endowments from fossil fuel holdings and to cancel any debt from Puerto Rico.

“Harvard and Yale claim their goal is to create student leaders who can strive toward a more ‘just, fair, and promising world’ by ‘improving the world today and for future generations.’ Yet by continuing to invest in industries that mislead the public, smear academics, and deny reality, Harvard and Yale are complicit in tearing down that future,” the student groups, Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard, Fossil Free Yale and Yale Endowment Justice Coalition, said in a statement following Saturday’s protest.

This has been a growing movement on college campuses across the country that has peaked as environmental issues have come to the forefront of various institutions. Back in September, activists celebrated a victory at the University of California system said that it would move away from investing from fossil fuels.

For Harvard senior Caleb Schwartz, who was one of the various protest organizers that were arrested on Saturday, told NPR about the events that unfolded on the field. “That moment, when we saw people running onto the field was just really incredible,” Schwartz said. “I saw organizers around me crying because it was such a beautiful moment.

Yale responded to Saturday’s protest saying that while the school supports freedom of expression, it shouldn’t come at the cost of delaying a sporting event.

Yale released a statement shortly after the game that the school “stands firmly for the right to free expression” but just not as the cost of this football game.

“It is regrettable,” a statement released by Yale read, “that the orchestrated protest came during a time when fellow students were participating in a collegiate career-defining contest and an annual tradition when thousands gather from around the world to enjoy and celebrate the storied traditions of both football programs and universities.”

The protest received support from various politicians who supported the activists’ cause and freedom and expression.

One of those who supported Saturday’s protest was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who tweeted “Activism disrupts the present to change the future.

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro also took to Twitter to shoutout the activists and said that he was impressed by the students’ efforts. “From the March for Our Lives, to worldwide Climate Strikes, students and young people are leading the charge to protect their futures,” Castro wrote. “I’m inspired by their efforts to hold their universities to a higher standard.”

There is no doubt that this protest has put these issues at the forefront of many people’s minds, especially at other fellow colleges. Don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last sporting event that gets disrupted to send the powerful message of climate change. 

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