With this weekend’s Optimist View in mind, we bring you another fantastic case of civil disobedience.
Last week, more than 100 first-year Harvard law students gathered at a restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a reception hosted by the corporate law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. The opulent affair, replete with lobsters for snacking, an ice sculpture, and an open bar, was one of many regular functions held by elite law firms to draw elite aspiring attorneys into the fold.
But about 30 students put their job prospects at risk when they interrupted the event with a demonstration. As Paul, Weiss attorney and partner Kannon Shanmugam got up to deliver a speech, a small group of students unfurled a banner that read #DropExxon and cut him off with a protest song. “Which side are you on?” they sang. “Does it weigh on you at all?”
After the song, a chorus of students joined lead organizer Aaron Regunberg in a call and response speech, announcing that they refuse to work for a firm that helps corporate polluters block climate action. As long as Paul, Weiss worked for Exxon, they wouldn’t work for Paul, Weiss.
Regunberg told the climate magazine Grist that while polluters are often confronted with climate demonstrations, the same isn’t true about the law firms that protect them. In general, though, climate activism in the Ivy League is heating up.
A parallel movement of students demanding that their schools divest from fossil fuel companies made national news in November when hundreds of protestors stormed the field at the annual Harvard-Yale football field.