The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

‘Reclaim Earth Day’ protest calls for Pitt to divest from fossil fuels

A+speaker+addressed+protestors+at+an+Earth+Day+rally+in+Schenley+Plaza+on+Monday.+
Alex Jurkuta | Senior Staff Photographer
A speaker addressed protestors at an Earth Day rally in Schenley Plaza on Monday.

A crowd of about 70 people wearing red and black gathered in Schenley Plaza on Monday evening for a protest demanding Pitt divest from fossil fuels. Speakers focused on the interconnection between theft of Indigenous land and the exploitation of the environment.

The protest, titled “Reclaim Earth Day,” acted as one piece of a national campaign, with events taking place at Harvard, Cornell, Princeton and other universities across the country. Fossil Free Pitt, Sunrise Movement Pittsburgh, Against Carceral Tech, Pitt’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, Free the Planet Pittsburgh, CMU Students for Palestine and other groups teamed up to organize the protest. 

Meredith Felde, a senior sociology major and organizer with Fossil Free Pitt, said the event has been “in the works” since Fossil Free Pitt attended the College Climate Gathering — an event hosted in fall 2023 by the Campus Climate Network at Brown University. 

“That was an effort to bring on student organizers from campuses across the country who had been working on divestment and bring them all together to do workshops together,” Felde said. “One of the larger goals was to initiate a national, cross campus Earth Day action.”

Protestors hold signs at an Earth Day rally in Schenley Plaza on Monday. (Alex Jurkuta | Senior Staff Photographer)

Ilyas Khan opened the protest and served as its emcee. They began by stating the connections between environmental movements and social justice movements, such as the pro-Palestine movement.They said the war in Gaza has generated significant carbon emissions.

“Climate justice has a long history of being exclusive and oppressive,” Khan, a sophomore fine arts and linguistics major at Carnegie Mellon, said. “But today we are standing firm in our rejection of the false dichotomy that we cannot have environmentalism and social justice and racial justice as part of the same movement.”

Khan said the organizers and protesters aimed to make it clear to the universities and local government officials that they stand for the “three Ds” —  divest, dissociate and decarbonize.

“I hope you are all prepared to stand firmly in solidarity today with the Indigenous people of this land, and the Indigenous people of every land,” Khan said. “Stand firmly in solidarity today with the oppressed people of this land, and the oppressed people of every land, as we take back this Earth Day, from all those who would do us and our homes ill.”

Protestors hold signs at an Earth Day rally in Schenley Plaza on Monday. (Alex Jurkuta | Senior Staff Photographer)

Felde also spoke at the protest and discussed Pitt’s connections to the fossil fuel industry.

The last time Pitt named its investments, during the fiscal year that ended June 2017, 18% of Pitt’s 108 funds listed supported the fossil fuel industry. Felde additionally called out multiple members of Pitt’s Board of Trustees with ties to the fossil fuel industry, as well as the selection of John Surma, the chairman of Marathon Petroleum Corporation, to be the keynote speaker at the 2024 spring commencement ceremony.

Seven other speakers followed Felde. A member of the Pittsburgh Labor Choirs led the group in song. MacKenzie MacFarland, an organizer with Sunrise Pittsburgh, spoke about environmental justice in Pittsburgh. Two speakers from Against Carceral Tech spoke about the Land Back movement and the military industrial complex. While three more speakers focused on Palestine, imperialist capitalism, greenwashing and divesting from “Israeli apartheid.”

Towards the end of the event, Khan acknowledged Tuesday’s primary election, endorsing Democrat Summer Lee and encouraging protesters to vote uncommitted in the presidential primary election instead of voting for Joe Biden to protest his position on the conflict in Gaza.

Justin Best, a junior environmental studies major and a member of Fossil Free Pitt, said they attended the event because of the “need to let people know in the city and in the university that we’re upset.”

“I think it’s great to have a coalition of people come …together for one cause,” Best said.

Felde also noted the effectiveness of the organizing community on campus uniting under demands for general financial transparency and for Pitt to cut ties with the military investments and fossil fuels.

“I think we’re in a really good moment here where students are starting to see how their struggles interconnect,” Felde said.

Felde said she felt happy with the turnout and the energy at the protest. She felt like they “accomplished the mission of reinvigorating Earth Day to really be about protest.”

“It’s kind of softened down to this sort of cutesy little tote bag thing, so it’s nice to see people feel really passionate about this cause,” Felde said.