UMPD arrests 15 students in connection with UMass Divest sit-in

By Stuart Foster

(Daily Collegian/Katherine Mayo)
(Daily Collegian/Katherine Mayo)

Fifteen University of Massachusetts students were arrested at Whitmore Administration Building Tuesday night following the second day-long sit-in protest by the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign against the University’s investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Student protesters continued their occupation of Whitmore after it was closed for business despite a pledge of advocacy for divestment from fossil fuels by Victor Woolridge, chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, and UMass President Marty Meehan, according to a press release sent by the UMass News and Media Relations Director Ed Blaguszewski.

Woolridge’s pledge for advocacy did not meet the event’s demand of a statement by the Board of Trustees fully committing to divestment from fossil fuel companies.

Students continued to occupy the Whitmore Building until 9:30 p.m. The 15 people arrested stayed behind after many more students willingly left around 8:20 p.m., long after the building closed at 5 p.m., and following hours of negotiation between members of the campaign and UMass administrators.

The arrests followed several warnings by the UMass Police Department that the students would be arrested if they did not voluntarily leave the building, according to the release.

The students stayed because the University Board of Trustees is escalating the situation by not committing to divestment, said Filipe Carvalho, a campaign spokesperson for UMass Divest and director of the Center for Economic Policy Advocacy.

“We escalated like we said we would,” said Carvalho, who spoke at the UMass Divest rally on Monday from 12-1 p.m. in front of the Student Union. “They didn’t give us what we wanted.”

More than 100 supporters of the UMass Divest campaign gathered outside of Whitmore as UMPD officers gradually led the arrested students out of the building.

The students outside shouted chants like, “I believe that we will win,” “The people united will never be defeated” and “Can you tell us, Chairman Woolridge, whose side are you on?”

Carvalho said UMass Divest would return on Wednesday to support divestment, and a rally outside of Whitmore is planned for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Throughout Tuesday, more than 120 quiet protesters sat in the halls of Whitmore outside of the Chancellor’s Office, filling the sides of the hallways.

The people arrested for trespassing in Whitmore will be arraigned in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown Wednesday.

The Student Government Association voted to support UMass Divest on Monday.

UMPD declined to comment Tuesday night.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster. Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @leboeuf_trisha.