As protestors excitedly gathered beside the Boston College T station on a beautiful Sunday, murmurs of being prevented from marching on campus grew quickly. The group was made up of students, faculty members and environmentalists from across Boston and the New England area all in support of pushing for Fossil Fuel Divestment from Boston College.
The march was officially hosted by Students for a Just and Stable Future. Students from Harvard, Boston University and Yale University participated. Renowned environmentalist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben was also in attendance for the march. Protestors, wielding makeshift banners and cardboard posters, filed off of the T and awaited the plunge into Boston College’s campus. Many expected to be turned away and planned to rally on the small park across from St. Ignatius Church.
There seemed to be a significant police presence around Boston College, but that wasn’t necessarily related to the protest. They very well could have been facilitating the Campus School Bandit Marathon or the influx of visitors for Admitted Eagle Day. However, once the march finally began, protestors were surprised to find the officers escorting those participating across the street, past St. Ignatius Church and into campus. Their rhythmic chants seized Lower Campus as Boston College students watched the march.
Not everyone was anticipating this type of welcome but they quickly continued en route to the quad—past Ignacio Hall and up the stairs toward St. Mary’s Hall. Members of Climate Justice at Boston College, having been denied a permit to protest, looked on excitedly from within Ignacio. Finally, the protestors gathered on the grass, still singing and proudly waving banners. “Boston College, practice what you preach: climate justice and free speech” resounded off of Gasson and Devlin Halls as the rally officially began.
Several men and women stepped onto milk grates and spoke into a megaphone. Students from Yale, community leaders, Juliet Schor—a sociology professor at Boston College—were among the speakers. Police officers continued to stand by, forming a loose perimeter around the quad but were ultimately uninvolved.
All those who spoke at the rally stressed solidarity and intentionality as being instrumental to the divestment movement. There was a reason the march was scheduled on Admitted Eagle Day. There was a purpose in walking past St. Ignatius Church and having the march on a busy day, according to emails sent by a SJBC spokesperson.
The rally had an audience, and religious, moral duty was at the heart of the message. The stance of Pope Francis seemed incredibly significant to those protesting. Everyone mentioned the need to “stick to the Jesuit, Catholic ideals” of stewardship.
Professor Schor explained, “We have an obligation to do whatever we can to combat climate change…it’s time to have a serious debate.” Bill McKibben, perhaps the unofficial keynote speaker of the rally soon followed, opening with a predictable Boston snow joke.
However, McKibben’s words soon became more substantial. He called for solidarity with Boston College students, who were being “blocked by the administration.” McKibben stressed “this is the movement of our time.”
It became clear that those participating in the protest indeed rallied around this sentiment.
Although there were many Boston College student onlookers, not many participated in the march. Sophomore Alex Kontopoulos A&S ’17, demonstrated his support for the movement. “It’s great to have this kind of support, spanning the entire northeast community,” he said. “This is a great way to create a base, a first step. We’re building a network.”
University spokesman Jack Dunn said in an email that the protest largely unaffected campus on an already busy day.
"The protest today was peaceful and non-disruptive," Dunn said. "Their presence did nothing to detract from a wonderful spring afternoon that featured 2,500 admitted students and hundreds of undergraduates who lined Commonwealth Avenue to cheer on their classmates who were running the Marathon route in support of the Campus School."
Soon after 2:30 p.m., the protestors regrouped and exited the quad, again marching and chanting, drawing the attention of all those present. The rally was met with no direct opposition and it is unclear what, if any, action Boston College will take in response. Nonetheless, the divestment movement made its presence known peacefully to the Boston College community—at least for an hour and a half.