Crowds Cheer As Student Climate Protesters Storm UPenn Football Field, Delay Homecoming Game For Over An Hour

Crowds Cheer As Student Climate Protesters Storm UPenn Football Field, Delay Homecoming Game For Over An Hour

Student climate protesters at the University of Pennsylvania disrupted the school’s homecoming football game for over an hour on Saturday.

More than 60 students rushed the field during halftime as the Quakers took on Yale University’s Bulldogs and were supported with cheers by many attendees, according to a report from The Daily Pennsylvanian student newspaper.

Nineteen individuals associated with student activist group Fossil Free Penn were later escorted off the field and detained by university police after refusing to exit.

The student-activists held bright orange banners with slogans such as “Divest,” marking a call for the school to end investments in fossil fuel ventures, as well as “Save the UC Townhomes.” During the university’s fall convocation, more than 100 protesters disrupted incoming Penn President Liz Magill’s comments about the diversity of the incoming cohort to rebuke the closure of 70 nearby affordable housing units.

“The intentional disruption of today’s football game was neither an appropriate expression of free speech, nor consistent with Penn’s open expression guidelines,” university spokesperson Ron Ozio told The Daily Pennsylvanian. A statement from Penn Athletics likewise said that the students’ conduct “does nothing to advance their legitimate policy concerns, concerns the university shares, but rather impinges upon the rights of others in the community to participate in the life of the campus.”

Penn students rush the field nearing the end of halftime of a Penn-Yale football game, protesting climate and community justice from Penn’s administration.

— Bella DiAmore (@belladiamore) October 22, 2022

In a message posted to social media, Fossil Free Penn noted that its “escalation” was necessary because Penn has not met their requests.

“It was only in this highly visible forum that we were able to get national press that is needed to push Penn to meet our demands,” the group said, adding that the Ivy League school must “take action” if administrators want “protests to end.” Otherwise, the school can “expect resistance” from the group, which recently established tents in the center of campus for more than one month.

The disruption of the homecoming game follows multiple climate protests in Europe. A pair of vandals threw tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s iconic “Sunflowers” painting, valued at nearly $85 million, at an art museum in London before gluing their hands to the nearby wall. Another group of environmental protesters likewise glued themselves to the floor at a Porsche facility in Germany before complaining that they were not provided bowls into which they could defecate.

As shown in footage from the Philadelphia Inquirer, most of the students left the field to avoid arrest, while the remainder were escorted from the stadium handcuffed in zip ties. Some in the crowd cheered as the students exited the area.

Dozens of student protesters representing the Fossil Free Penn organization flooded the field during Penn’s homecoming game against Yale Saturday at Franklin Field.

The group planned the action after an ongoing fight with Penn over climate issues and community justice.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer (@PhillyInquirer) October 23, 2022

Sarah Sterinbach, a student involved in the protest, told the outlet that disrupting the game was among the most important moments of her life.

“We felt like this escalation was necessary,” she recounted. “We know Penn can be a force of good for the community, and there’s a lot of alumni at this game, and we want to show the people in power that we aren’t stopping until they are a force of change and a force of good.”

The protest came days after Harvard Management Company announced that the school’s endowment shrank $2.3 billion in the past fiscal year, specifically mentioning that fossil fuel divestment “weighed upon performance.” At the end of last year, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow announced that the university would allow remaining investments in the fossil fuel industry to expire while refusing to adopt new ones after campaigns from student activists.