Roughly 60 members of Sunrise GW and GW College Democrats protested GW’s investments in the fossil fuel industry at a basketball game Wednesday night.
At the start of the second annual scrimmage between the College Democrats and the GW College Republicans, the Democrats’ team wore yellow shirts with slogans like “Divest Now” as they ran onto the court, while members of Sunrise GW stood in the stands with yellow signs offering support for divestment. Protesters said they intended to raise awareness about GW’s investment in fossil fuels, about 3 percent of GW’s endowment, through their actions.
Louie Kahn, the College Democrats’ basketball team coach and the group’s campaigns director, said the organizations wanted University President Thomas LeBlanc, who attended the game, to see student support for divestment directly.
“It’s another effort to raise awareness about how GW has about 3 percent of its endowment invested in the fossil fuel industry and advocating for them to divest,” Kahn said.
LeBlanc did not immediately return a request for comment.
John Olds, the chair of the College Republicans and a member of the GOP’s team, said the venue, a bipartisan game of basketball, was not the appropriate place to protest.
“My understanding of this was that it’s supposed to be a bipartisan event – talking about civil discourse.” Olds said. “I find it a little unfortunate that they used it as an opportunity to protest.”
Andy Liaupsin, a candidate for Student Association executive vice president and member of Sunrise GW who protested at the game, said the group had been planning the demonstration for a few weeks. The group planned to protest the specific game because it was an alumni event, which he said meant LeBlanc had “a lot of stake” in the game’s success.
“We’re trying to take this fight to LeBlanc and the administration, because it is entirely up to them to be able to divest,” he said. “We are trying to show that the student body is loud and clear that we want to be off fossil fuels. We don’t want our University to become complicit in the climate crisis, so we are trying to just make as much noise on campus as possible.”
The student organization interrupted a panel discussion earlier this month at the 10-year anniversary event of the Regulatory Studies Center, a research hub which has fallen under criticism for accepting donations from ExxonMobil and the Charles Koch Foundation. Sunrise GW delivered a letter to LeBlanc a day after the demonstration that called on officials to divest from fossil fuels.
The Board of Trustees created a task force examining GW’s “environmental, social and governance responsibility” following the demonstrations.
The College Democrats beat the College Republicans 8-2 in the annual scrimmage.