A large group of climate change protesters flooded a football field during the Yale home game against Harvard on Saturday, delaying the event for more than 30 minutes as police scrambled to remove them.
About 150 students and alumni from both schools rushed the field of the Yale Bowl during the halftime show. Organizers said hundreds of spectators joined them, too, delaying the game and raising concerns that the game might not be able to continue to the second half in the dark. (The Yale Bowl does not have permanent lights installed.)
"The entire field was flooded by people demanding that the university stand up for our future," Nora Heaphy, one of the organizers and a junior at Yale University, told BuzzFeed News.
The students and alumni, who had been planning the protest for about a month and a half, unveiled banners during the end of the halftime show, then sat on the field until police removed them from the stadium.
As students were being escorted from the field, several of them could be heard chanting, "Disclose, divest, or this will be our end," the Harvard Crimson reported.
The demonstration was organized by the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition and Divest Harvard, two groups from the universities that are pushing the universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
The Harvard Crimson reported that although some student groups and alumni have called on the university to divest from fossil fuel investments, University President Lawrence S. Bacow has stated the university does not use its endowment for political purposes and has suggested that climate change be addressed instead through research.
The game was being aired live on cable television, and the protest caught fans by surprise.
In a written statement, Yale University called the protest "regrettable" and said the school does not allow the disruption of university events.
"It is regrettable that the orchestrated protest came during a time when fellow students were participating in a collegiate career-defining contest and an annual tradition when thousands gather from around the world to enjoy and celebrate the storied traditions of both football programs and universities," the school said in the statement. "The exercise of free expression on campus is subject to general conditions, and we do not allow disruption of university events."
A highly anticipated game between the Ivy League rivals, the game is usually sold out and heavily attended by alumni.
That was part of the reason why demonstrators picked the game as the venue for their protest, Heaphy said.
"The game is a focal point for press and alumni who may not know the university is invested in the climate crisis," said Heaphy, an ecology and evolutionary biology major. "It's a huge opportunity to spread our message."
Part of that message is aimed at alumni, she said, who were being urged not to make donations to the universities until they promised to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
About 200 people were detained by police and being held in an area just outside of the Yale Bowl, Heaphy said, including herself.
Organizers never planned to cancel the football game, she said, but did plan on being arrested for the protest. Still, she said, it was surprising to see spectators from the game joining protesters on the field.
"It felt like we were part of an unstoppable movement," she said.
She then told BuzzFeed News she had to cut the interview short because she needed to speak with a police officer who was processing her arrest.