Protesters wearing the colors of both Harvard and Yale staged a sit-in at midfield of Yale Bowl during halftime of the 136th edition of the annual football rivalry known as The Game. Most left after about an hour when they were escorted off by police; a handful who remained were told by police they were under arrest.
A few dozen protesters initially trickled onto the field as the Yale band finished performing its halftime routine. They held up banners asking the schools' presidents to divest from the fossil fuel industry, while other signs raised issues of Puerto Rican debt and the treatment of the Uighurs.
Largely of college age but with a few older protesters mixed in, the group chanted: "Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!" One banner read "This is an emergency."
Police in yellow vests lined up alongside the sit-in but did not intervene. When the 15-minute halftime expired and the protest continued, hundreds more fans streamed onto the field to join in. Fans remaining in the stands began to boo, but only briefly.
Players tried to remain warm on the sideline in the mid-40 temperatures, but then returned to their locker rooms. Harvard coach Tim Murphy was given an update from the game officials and public safety officers as the protest continued.
The public address announcer implored the group to leave, repeating, "As a courtesy to both teams, the game must resume." Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins spoke to the protesters over a megaphone, trying to convince them that they had made their point, but it would be lost if the situation escalated.
After about an hour, police formed a line and moved forward, from the Yale sideline toward the Harvard sideline. A protest leader encouraged all "internationals" to leave. An agreement was reached to escort the remainders off, with one police officer to every two protesters.
Those who did not leave then — perhaps one or two dozen — were informed by Higgins that they would be arrested. Asked how many people were taken into custody, Higgins referred questions to the police public information officer. Calls to Yale and New Haven police were not immediately returned.
The protest was organized by groups from both universities, Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard and the Endowment Justice Coalition at Yale.
"Both Harvard and Yale are losing badly in their efforts to address the climate emergency," the groups said in a joint press release after the protest. "Puerto Rican families still have not recovered from the devastation of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, wildfires are burning homes to the ground in California, and the latest UN climate report says we have just 10 years to cut our emissions in half and rapidly transform our economy and society."
Both organizations claim more than 200 students and alumni took to the football field during the protest efforts.
Joseph Winters, a junior at Harvard, was one of the students who took to the field.
"We see ourselves as living in a climate emergency and the status quo is unacceptable until meaningful action is taken by our universities to address it," Winters said.
With Yale hoping to clinch an Ivy League title, Harvard led 15-3 at halftime and opened a 29-19 lead after three quarters. The Crimson led 36-22 with about seven minutes left in the game, and most of the 44,989 in the announced crowd had left.
The game, which started at noon, ended just after 4:30 p.m., with a Yale victory.
This article was originally published on November 23, 2019.