NEW HAVEN, CONN. — Demonstrators stormed the field during halftime at the Harvard-Yale football game Saturday, delaying the game for about an hour to demand that both universities divest their investments in fossil fuels and to call attention to the issue of climate change.
The protest, which began with a few dozen protesters staging a sit-in midfield as the Yale band finished its halftime routine, swelled to about 500 people at one point as others in the stands joined the demonstration, The New York Times reported.
Some held banners urging the schools’ presidents to divest from the fossil fuel industry and others spoke out against Puerto Rican debt and the treatment of Uighurs in China.
“Students are tired of Harvard and Yale profiting off of climate destruction and neocolonial investments in Puerto Rico’s debt,” protesters said in a statement to news organizations Saturday. “It’s time for more than lip service and greenwashing from academic leaders. Harvard and Yale must address the climate emergency at the scale and with the urgency it demands. This action is only the beginning.”
ESPNU replaced the live broadcast with another game.
During the midfield protest, the protesters chanted: “Hey hey! Ho ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!” One banner read, “This is an emergency.”
Some of those involved with the game, such as Yale captain J.P. Shohfi, took the disruption in stride.
“If we can’t control it, we can’t worry about it. In the locker room we were just re-focusing on our game plan, trying to stay loose,” Shohfi said.
Harvard coach Tim Murphy said you just deal with the circumstances that you have.
“You don’t make a big issue out of it with your team,” he said. “It is what it is.”
Demonstrators were surrounded by police and security and the public address system asked them to clear the field “as a courtesy to players.”
Finally, police formed a line and moved from the Yale sideline to the Harvard sideline. Protesters began leaving the field.
Up to about two dozen protesters remained on the field, and Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins warned them they would face arrest, according to the AP.
Rachael Dane, a Harvard spokeswoman, said the university would not comment on the student protest or police response. A New Haven police spokeswoman directed comment to Yale University.
In a statement on Harvard’s climate actions, the university said that Harvard Management Company, which manages the University’s endowment, “engages directly with companies to address issues related to climate change through its work with the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment and the Climate Action 100+.”
The university statement said commitments in its Climate Action Plan “explicitly recognize” that the world must move quickly to end its use of fossil fuels.
“While we agree on the urgency of this global challenge, we respectfully disagree with divestment activists on the means by which a university should confront it,” the statement said.
“Universities like Harvard have a crucial role to play in tackling climate change and Harvard is fully committed to leadership in this area through research, education, community engagement, dramatically reducing its own carbon footprint, and using our campus as a test bed for piloting and proving solutions.”
In a statement posted to Twitter Saturday afternoon, the Ivy League conference said it supports the right to freedom of speech and demonstration.
“It is regrettable that the orchestrated protest came during a time when fellow students were participating in a collegiate career-defining contest and an annual tradition when thousands gather from around the world to enjoy and celebrate the storied traditions of both football programs and universities,” the conference statement said.
Karen Peart, a Yale spokeswoman, said in a statement that the university “stands firmly” for the right to free expression, and also stands with the statement issued by the Ivy League.
“We are grateful to the staff members and police officers who ensured the peaceful departure of students from the field,” Peart said in the statement.
“The exercise of free expression on campus is subject to general conditions, and we do not allow disruption of university events.”