Protests to convince the University of Mary Washington to divest from stocks of companies producing fossil fuel took a new turn Wednesday when Virginia State Police broke up a 21-day campus building sit-in and arrested three people.
Students Noah Goodwin and Adam Wander, along with local resident Nina Young, were taken away in handcuffs and body chains after occupying the hallway of George Washington Hall, where DivestUMW had been holding a sit-in since March 26.
University officials gave warned of the pending police action, saying they were concerned about safety because protestors, who had been milling in and out of the building, had left food and personal possessions there.
The Mary Washington protests have been getting national attention although state coverage has been skimpy. Students at other schools such as Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia have been supporting the protest, but it has been mostly off state radar screens.
Nationally, however, holding universities to investment standards is a growing movement. At Syracuse University, protestors have convinced the school to divest stocks of any fossil fuel company from their portfolio. At Stanford, stocks of coal companies are taboo.
The UMW students have gotten coverage in national newspapers such as USAToday and are fueling (pun intended) a debate on whether investing in oil, gas and coal firms is good for the environment and whether it contributes to climate change.
It is heartening to see people take the global warming debate into real lives and the real world, rather than just holding debates about it.
Conservatives, such as nationally syndicated columnist George Will, pooh-pooh the movement and the concepts of sustainability that get a lot of support on campuses these days.
U.Va., for instance, has available a pledge that members of its community can take. It states: “I pledge to consider the social, economic, and environmental impacts of my habits and to explore ways to foster a sustainable environment during my time here at U.Va. and beyond.”
It takes guts to put your ideas, and your personal freedom, on the line in a non-violent way for what you believe in. The three people arrested are being held in the Rappahannock Regional Jail.