Five anti-fossil fuel campus activists at Northern Arizona University (NAU) were arrested Monday after refusing to leaving a building they were occupying in protest of the school’s fossil fuel assets.
“We want clean investing, we want just investing,” NAU student Luna Thompson said in a speech to a fossil free group during the occupation, which ended with students Michaela Mujica-Steiner, Karina Gonsalez, Zane Holditch, Laura Blair and Megan Sissingh being arrested.
Thompson added: “Rita Cheng. Take a stand. Pick a side. Divest.”
The group was attempting pressure President Rita Cheng into taking a firm stance against the school’s use of fossil fuel assets to bolster endowments. They held signs reading, “Youth choose climate justice” and “Climate justice now.”
The five who got arrested were cited for trespassing and later released, according to the NAU police department. The students were nabbed after sequestering themselves in the lobby of NAU’s Student and Academic Services building after closing time.
The other 28 protesters at the occupation scattered after police arrived, hoping to avoid the fate of their fellow greenie activists.
“We decided to get arrested to show President Cheng we are serious about divestment and will persevere with our demands,” Gonsalez and Mujica-Steiner wrote in a text message after being released.
The protests emanated from the anti-oil group Fossil Free NAU, which sinks resources and time into forcing the nonprofit group NAU Foundation to purge investments of the top 200 coal, oil and gas corporations.
The fossil free campus activists attempted to recreate a 1960s flower power-like atmosphere during the occupation by chanting and singing old hippy-era hits such as the Freedom Singers’ song “Woke Up This Morning,” which became synonymous with the 1960s civil rights movement.
The NAU arrests come on the heels of the arrests of 34 students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass) for occupying a public building in hopes of the getting the UMass Investment Fund to divest the school’s fossil fuel assets.
UMass students demanded the university divest from 200 top fossil fuel companies in order to fight climate change and what they call “destructive and exploitative” oil companies.
Protesters at UMass made similar demands as those at NAU.
“Time’s up. It’s time to lead with us and stand on the right side of history,” Filipe Carvalho, a UMass student and protester told reporters.
Carvalho promised an “escalation” in protests until the school’s investment group completely winds down its $700 million in fossil fuel investments. The fund ended its coal assets in December.
“We’re going to have more people, we’re going to have more support, we’re going to have more press to build on the momentum that we have here,” he said.
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