24 Hours in Massachusetts Hall

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For the past 24 hours, we–34 students of Divest Harvard–held a sit-in in Massachusetts Hall. We sat outside the office of President Faust, calling on the Harvard administration to divest from fossil fuels. We are leaving at 10 am this morning stronger and more united after a successful demonstration of our power and our goals.

This direct action comes after two and a half years of interactions with an administration that avoids engagement with student activism at all costs. So we began our sit-in in the hopes that we could bring our voices and urgency directly to the doorstop of President Faust. It worked: by mid-morning, she was compelled to respond–a first in our experience with the administration. Yet despite that minor victory, her words made it clear she had no sincere interest in working with us. Instead, she issued an ultimatum that was intended to cut short our direct action, and she called our presence and our passion “coercive”.

To call our tactics coercive is to misrepresent the facts. In the past 24 hours, we were respectful to all who work in Massachusetts Hall, all who entered, and to the space itself. The statements of the University also fundamentally misunderstand the role of all nonviolent direct action. The imbalanced power dynamic of this institution, one that has consistently relegated many student voices to the margins, mandates disruptive action. Climate change that disproportionately affects already-disadvantaged populations and perpetuates existing injustices mandates disruptive action.

Each one of us must employ every tactic at our disposal to address the devastation and injustice that the climate crisis brings. We are confident that our protest over the past 24 hours–tiny in the face of the urgency of the crisis but significant in its content and tone–made this clear. And we are honored to join a wave of other direct actions and protests on college campuses and in cities around the world to call on our institutions to exercise their moral and economic power and divest from the fossil fuel industry.

This protest demonstrated the power of direct action and intentional organizing. Divest Harvard is committed to returning in April to engage in mass civil disobedience, represented by the diversity and range of voices in our movement, to make it clear that we expect our University to do the right thing. We hope that all will join us.