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May 10, 2017

Marc Osten fondly remembered by student activism community

(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

A bright face in the Amherst activism community, Marc Osten had a passion for educating society on environmental issues and getting people involved on a local level.

The 55-year-old father, husband and Amherst resident died Wednesday, April 19, due to critical injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on April 17, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Many students at the University of Massachusetts remember him fondly in their own activism work.

“Marc was a very silly, playful person, but he was so incredibly dedicated and passionate about all of the work that he did…He’s one of the most thoughtful and considerate people I’ve worked with in terms of organizing,” said Giovana Castro, a sophomore social thought and political economy major.

Castro first met Osten in December 2016, when the two spent about six hours chained to the doors of the TD Bank in Amherst alongside in a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“It was very intense, but I think that one of the things that I knew when I met him was that I could definitely trust him,” she said.

“He was just so kind—one of the kindest—and just so aware of everyone else. He holds so much empathy in his heart for everybody around him. He was the kind of leader and mentor that we really need in our society today,” said Brandon Curtin, a junior sustainable food and farming major.

James Frank, a senior BDIC major admired Osten’s wealth of knowledge within the activism community.

“He came to the actions that we organized together with just so much experience, so much more experience than I have of course,” Frank said. “He had worked for a lot of organizations, he used to work for Greenpeace.”

According to Osten’s blog, for 25 years he worked as “an activist, educator, community organizer, consultant, change agent, risk taker, organizational therapist, author, coach, entrepreneur and provocateur” all with the goal of making the world a better place.

Osten strived to make the world a better place through educating others on how to do so.

“I helped with a few different actions with him and spent many hours with him and other activists in the community discussing tactics, all of the different approaches to educating the public around Standing Rock mostly,” said Curtin.

He added, “He was definitely a big leader…he came with so much experience and he really listened to everybody, he listened to people whose first time it was doing activism and treated every word as if it was as important as his.”

“The last message he sent me was, ‘Is there anything I can do to be supportive right now for you?’ And I think that kind of exemplifies how he is as an organizer, friend, as a comrade,” Castro said.

For Frank, Osten was nothing but optimistic.

“In the wake of his passing and just reminiscing on his general attitude, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lightness about him,” Frank said. “It didn’t ever seem like he held grudges or he was overly upset for any longer than he needed to be and he always had this very comical and passionate kind of theatrical nature about him.”

This theatrical nature about him was evident in the actions he organized.

In March, Osten sat chained between large barrels covered in fake oil with two other demonstrators outside of a Bank of America in Amherst to protest Bank of American and other large banks funding of various pipelines.

Despite the freezing temperatures, Osten was not discouraged.

Frank played a considerable role in the execution of this action as the stage manager.

“I remember the chief of police coming over to Marc and just with this great big smile and light nature about him, he was like, ‘Hello! Hello officer! Will you tell us about what you’re doing here today and what you’re seeing?’ The police just didn’t know how to interact with him because he was just so friendly, but also so powerful,” said Frank.

“He was not afraid of authority and I think he really held himself and walked in the world in a way where he really embodied what he believed,” he added.

Osten is survived by his wife Colleen Osten, his two children and extended family and friends, according to his obituary.

“In his physical absence and with his sudden passing, I think he leaves a very strong and clear message. That, in my mind, is one of the most beautiful things about the life that a person can live. He’s leaving us all, everyone who knew him and even people who didn’t know him, with this clear message to stay engaged and to become involved and to really engage with life in meaningful ways,” Frank said.

“I can just hear his voice so clearly saying ‘Be sad, mourn, take time, heal and get out there. Get out there and take on these resistance efforts and really challenge the way things are. Don’t just take life as this thing that people have no power over,’” he said.

Hayley Johnson can be reached at and followed on Twitter @hayleyk_johnson.


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