Climate change protestors decorated the front façade of King’s College London’s Strand Building to creatively protest the College’s investment in fossil fuel companies.
At 11:00 protesters started gathering along the Strand. The Facebook event page promised more than 100 participants. One could ask for whom the bell of the nearby church tolled: the actual number of people who showed up was around 30. This was partly due to the event coinciding with the NHS National Demonstration. However, today’s protest has drawn its strength not from numbers, but diversity as a good mix of people united for the cause.
Asked about his motivation, one protester said: “We feel a partial divestment is not going far enough. A prestigious institution like King’s with several Nobel Laureates associated with it should be taking a principal stand and should not be bankrolling the evil that is the fossil fuelling industry.”
George Barda, one of the activists, shouted: “This is all just corruption and all future generations depend on us standing up to it in large numbers”.
Sian Berry, member of the Green Party, also participated in today’s rally. She sent a letter two weeks ago asking the College’s Principal to divest and reconsider sanctions on activists.
Roger Hallam, the lead activist of King’s Climate Change Emergency and PhD researcher, chatted with fellow protesters and shared occasional winks with them. You could easily spot him by his Holden Caulfield-like hunting hat only in black. Roger is on his eight day of hunger strike and said he is “not feeling that well”. However, he was optimistic about today’s rally: “We’re excited that we’ve got lots of people to put stuff on the wall to show that this campaign is carrying on and we’re planning to win next week. We’ve spoken to the Vice Principal and we’re expecting King’s College to do the right thing for the divestment policy. We’re carrying on with our strike and civil disobedience until that happens.”
Around 11:20 the protesters formed a long line facing the Strand building. They kneeled for a minute in silence, to then rise and put their hands in the air holding daffodils, paint brushes and coffee cups. Finally, they marched to the wall and attacked it.
The “wall of fame” alumni were watching over. And so were the Police and a discrete member from the College’s Security staff.
The Police attempted to arrest two protesters after they spilled paint on the wall. The protesters clarified the situation quickly saying it was an accident. They were told that, as long as they are going to clean it up, there is not going to be any problem. Asked about the protest, they both agreed that there is no better way of sending a powerful message than by doing something creative.
“It’s a strange protest”, a police-woman could be heard saying as protesters were sticking stars, placards and flowers on the walls to keep the teddy bears company.
The colourful banners have rather grim messages: “DIVEST NOW or we will die” reads one of them. Only grim or also true? It depends on the College’s actions whether we might have to test the answer ourselves.
Photography by Cathy Wang