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19 UMass students arrested in fossil fuel protest

Police arrested 19 students at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst Wednesday evening as climate change protesters occupied an administrative building for the second night in a row, according to school officials.

Over 250 student demonstrators from the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign staged a sit-in at the Whitmore Administration Building to demand that the school shed all financial ties to fossil fuels.

Students continued to push for action Wednesday despite the administration’s pledge on Tuesday night to “support a policy that divests and prohibits direct investment in fossil fuel companies,” said Edward Blaguszewski, a spokesman for the university.


The campaign said in a statement on its Facebook page that “after five hours of negotiation with administration” on Tuesday, their demands “were not met.”

“They’ve proposed dialogue but what we want is action,” the statement continued.

Mica Reel, a UMass sophomore and the campaign’s spokeswoman, said that the sit-ins have been growing in numbers each day, and that students will continue to demonstrate on Thursday, with even larger crowds expected.

“This campaign has been going on for almost four years and has always had the same ask: to fully divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies,” said Reel.

“The climate crisis is now and it’s urgent and it’s here, and they’re not feeling that urgency. “We’re not asking for advocacy, we’re asking for immediate action.”

Reel noted that the group wants the university to prepare a five-year plan for divestment by June 1.

“We really just want a solid commitment from them,” she said.

Victor Woolridge, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, and UMass President Marty Meehan called divesting direct investments in fossil fuel companies “a logical next step” to the university’s divestment last year in direct investments in coal companies, according to Blaguszewski.

“The decision-making authority regarding management of the university’s five-campus endowment ultimately rests with the Board of Directors of the University of Massachusetts Foundation, which is guided in such matters by an investment committee and professional investment advisors,” he added.


Following warnings on Wednesday, UMass police arrested 19 of the protesters and charged them with trespassing, starting at about 6 p.m.

Fifteen protesters were arrested Tuesday night on the same charges.

Reenat Sinay can be reached at reenat.sinay@globe.com.