Morning campus traffic was disrupted on Wednesday morning as a group of around 35 demonstrators rode bikes through campus to protest McGill’s continued investments in fossil fuels. The protest also aimed to support the idea of bike lanes on campus, which would allow cyclists to ride their bikes across the lower campus, rather than walk them, as they are currently required to do.
The demonstration began at 10:30 a.m. near the Milton Gates. Around two-thirds of the demonstrators rode their bikes in a circuit passing by the Arts building, Leacock, and McTavish Street, before ending up on the steps of the Arts building.
No significant security action was noted in response to the demonstration. One lone guard was seen vigorously pointing to a sign instructing cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes.
“Divestment is the tactic, climate justice is the goal,” the demonstrators chanted as they rode through campus.
The remaining demonstrators walked to the Arts building waving signs and banners encouraging the University to divest from fossil fuels.
The demonstration was put on by Divest McGill, a group which seeks to end the University’s continued investment in fossil fuel companies. The group came into the spotlight in May when it unsuccessfully petitioned McGill’s Board of Governors to divest from investments in companies profiting from fossil fuels.
“[We’re] highlighting the contrast […] between all of the energy that goes into targeting bikes versus like basically none of the energy that goes […] into addressing tar sands [and] climate change,” remarked local climate activist Curtis Murphy to The Daily.
“We think that we should be focusing not on blocking sustainable solutions, like having bikes on campus, but more on things that are productive.”
“We think that we should be focusing not on blocking sustainable solutions, like having bikes on campus, but more on things that are productive,” noted Divest McGill member Kristen Perry.
“It supports the rejection of fossil fuels,” said a demonstrator who identified only as Loïc, when asked about the potential for bikes on campus. “It’s a better way to commute around.”
The demonstrators were quick to point out that their main focus was not specifically bikes on campus, but rather the broader issue of divestment from fossil fuels as a whole.
“The climate crisis is now,” yelled protest organizer Lily Schwarzbaum from the steps of the Arts building.
“When we talk about taking down the [fossil fuel] industry, we are taking down the most powerful group […] in the world. Their business plan, which is to burn through the reserves past our carbon budget, puts all of our lives at danger. By taking them down we are fighting for our very survival,” Schwarzbaum continued.
“Our hope is that they’ll divest,” Perry remarked when asked how she hoped the University would respond to the demonstration.
“Just making sure that [the University] knows that we’re not going to go away just because they said no the first time is really important. [...] Just keeping the pressure up and just making sure that they understand that we’re here to stay because climate change is not going away,” Perry noted.