Three Divest UMW protesters detained by police

Group divestment proposal rejected by Mary Washington Board of Visitors

Three people were held in police custody after refusing to leave George Washington Hall at the University of Mary Washington Wednesday. Two students and one member of the community faced arrest following a demonstration in support of Divest UMW, a group campaigning for the school to withdraw its endowment from any companies that profit from the exploitation of fossil fuels.

Twenty people affiliated with Divest UMW staged a sit-in of the President’s office beginning March 26 after the college’s Board of Visitors rejected a vote on forming a divestment subcommittee. According to a press released issued Monday, Divest UMW wants the BOV to take action towards full divestment by creating a divestment subcommittee that is committed to removing investments in coal by May 2016.

The administration issued a warning at 5 p.m. Wednesday, mandating that all students and community members evacuate the President’s office by 6:30 p.m. The three individuals were taken into custody after failing to adhere to the request.

The group has similar aims to Divest UVa, a campaign being run by the University’s Climate Action Society, which seeks to divest all of the University’s assets associated with fossil fuels. First-year College student Kendall King-Sellars, campaign coordinator for Divest U.Va., said divestment from fossil fuels is the fastest growing student divestment movement to date.

“With this campaign, UVa students are joining students from universities across the world in calling on their Board of Visitors to prioritize their future over an obsolete status quo,” King-Sellars said in an email. “At the administrative level, a working group is drafting a sustainable finance proposal incorporating divestment and other measures to ensure that our University is greener in the long term.”

Aiming to support various divestment movements, Divest UVa works with groups from other campuses throughout the Commonwealth with DivestVA and the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.

“Students from around the state helped plan the Divest UMW sit-in and held their own actions this past week during Harvard's Heat Week,” King-Sellars said.

King-Sellars said Divest UVa is currently drafting a proposal to present to the Board of Visitors, one which she hopes will be ready by next semester.

“The working group includes professors and students from a wide-range of disciplines including environmental sciences and the commerce school,” King-Sellars said. “We hope to have the proposal finished and passed by the Sustainability Committee by the beginning of the fall semester.”

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