Multiple Arrests at University of Michigan During ‘Climate Strike’ Protest

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty
ALANA MASTRANGELO

Multiple arrests were made at the University of Michigan on Friday after students held a “climate strike” sit-in inside an administrative building, where they refuse to leave until being able to speak to the university’s president about climate change.

Thousands of students and community members held a rally at the University of Michigan on Friday, before entering the Fleming Administrative Building for a sit-in, calling on the university’s president Mark Schlissel to answer their questions about what the school plans to do to fight climate change, according to the school’s student newspaper.

The protest resulted in multiple arrests of individuals who refused to leave the inside of the Fleming Administrative Building after receiving multiple warnings by the University of Michigan Police Department and Division of Public Safety and Security.

Ten demonstrators — including two minors — were arrested and given citations for trespassing after ignoring multiple warnings to leave the building.

One student who was present, but was not arrested, told the student newspaper that a police officer had warned her that being arrested and having a criminal record would have a negative impact on her future.

“I laughed,” said the student, “because climate change is definitely going to affect my future — a criminal record may or may not, depending on what I chose to do with my life, but no matter what I do or where I am climate change is definitely going to impact my future.”

Students from the university — as well as from other schools in the area — held a school walkout in which they gathered outside of the University of Michigan for a “climate strike,” carrying signs and chanting. Several speakers delivered their remarks at a podium, much of which consisted of doomsday fear-mongering.

“Maybe, due to climate change, I’ll be too terrified to start a family due to the unknown fate of our future,” said a speaker at the protest, “Maybe I’ll be trapped in my home due to intense heat waves and drastic wildfires, terrified of my safety and my health due to immense increase of diseases and sicknesses.”

“The truth is, I have no idea where my future might take me,” continued the speaker, “If you’re panicked right now, good. If you’re in fear, good. Take all those emotions, the fear, the frustration, the anger, and fuel it into change.”

“There is so much going on today, and so much power in this space right here,” said Michigan House of Representatives member and Democratic Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi, “It is so incredibly motivating to see a crowd of young people — We are facing some serious challenges, as well all know.”

“One of my colleagues just introduced a resolution calling on the federal government to not approve the Green New Deal,” continued the Floor Leader, which elicited a response of booing, in concurrence with Rabhi, among the young crowd.

“What in the heck is the state government saying you can’t approve the Green New Deal? That’s crazy! That’s not right!” added Rabhi.

“You have to make a change and commit to it — you can’t do everything but you also can’t do nothing,” affirmed another speaker, adding that while “we’re not fighting for our futures because you like cheeseburgers more than veggie burgers,” the majority of the responsibility is on the government, “not on the common people.”

“Our national government has refused to divest from fossil fuel use, resisted committing to the Green New Deal, and retracted us as a country, from the Paris Climate Agreement,” added the speaker, “They aren’t making our futures a priority.”

“One thing I’m really looking forward to is seeing all, like, people my age, like, the youth rally together for — action on climate change, because it’s our future,” said a student from the International Academy of Macomb.

“I’m really excited to see, like, young people taking charge and control of, like, what’s going on in our world,” added another International Academy of Macomb student.

Students later marched into the Fleming Administrative Building, where they chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go.”

The protesters reportedly created a list of “climate strike” demands, which were for politicians and the university to “end the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, commit to carbon neutrality by 2030, use resources to adjust to renewable energy and create goals to address climate concerns, such as keeping global temperature increases below 1.5 Celsius per year.”

According to the student newspaper, a sophomore at the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts said that one of the reasons she decided to attend the climate strike was because the professor from her environment class “said it was a-okay.”

The Washtenaw County Climate Strike protesters released a statement on Friday, confirming that Jeff Gaynor, a member of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education, was one of the demonstrators who was arrested on Friday evening.

Additionally, the statement mentioned that a 15-year-old black girl — who was arrested — had been detained for a longer period of time than white demonstrators who had been arrested.

“Most of the protestors (who are white) were arrested, processed, and released shortly afterwards,” read the statement, “However, the [black] girl was detained for almost an hour — She was released around 9:30 p.m. — we consider this treatment to be racist, and a clear example of how the police continue to uphold white supremacy.”

According to the university’s deputy chief of police, Melissa Overton, the two minors that had been arrested were held inside the Fleming Administrative Building until their guardians arrived.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.

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