Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

Cornell Climate Justice protesters blocked the intersection of East Avenue and Tower Road on Feb. 13, demanding the University's divestment from fossil fuels.

February 13, 2020

Fossil Fuel Divestment Protesters Block Tower Road and East Avenue Intersection

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“If we don’t get [fossil fuel divestment], shut it down!”

On Thursday, Climate Justice Cornell protestors made that chant a reality.

At 1 p.m., the protesters blocked the intersection of Tower Road and East Avenue. Protesters demanded that Cornell University sever its ties to the fossil fuel industry, joining activists on campuses across the country on Global Divestment Day.

After informal group votes, the protesters allowed two TCAT buses and one car through the intersection. At 1:36 p.m., the University emailed the Cornell community announcing the temporary road closure of East Avenue and Tower Road between Garden Avenue and East Avenue.

As of 3:04, there was no access to the Day Hall loading dock, Lincoln Drive and President’s Drive.  The closure has impacted TCAT bus routes, causing buses to take detours.

Prior to blocking the intersection, the protestors staged a “wedding” on Ho Plaza between Cornell — represented by a puppet of Day Hall over six feet tall — and a puppet labeled “big oil.”

Colin Benedict ’21 started the “wedding” with a call for solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people of Canada, who do not want a pipeline built through their ancestral lands, joining a solidarity protest that closed the streets in downtown Ithaca on Wednesday.

While most protesters were students, some alumni were in attendance.

“I have a special interest in this because I was a trustee candidate five years ago on the subject of fossil fuel divestment, and I campaigned strenuously on that topic, to the extent that the rules allowed me to campaign,” said Joe Rowland ’73, who was a trustee candidate in 2015. “I wasn’t elected but it was the right thing to do in 2015, and it’s the right thing to do today. One of these days the trustees are gonna wake up and do what’s right.”

The “wedding party” included a dance party in the intersection, with thematic music choices including “Gold digger” by Kanye West and “Toxic,” by Britney Spears and multiple trumpet players.

“We’ve been asking them to divest for years and years and years, and they won’t, so why not make their [Cornell and the fossil fuel industry’s] love official,” said Avery MacLean ’23.

According to Patty Poist, communications and marketing manager at TCAT, buses resumed their normal routes as of 3:23 p.m,, as the protesters relocated to Klarman Hall.

This story is breaking and will be updated.