Rally for Justice in Iberá: Media Coverage

Check out the story  by Kristina Lorch in The Crimson this morning:

Students Rally Against Harvard’s Management of Timber Plantations in Argentina

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition held a rally Friday afternoon on the steps of Widener Library and Massachusetts Hall to protest the University’s management of timber plantations it owns in Argentina. The rally comes after much debate over the plantations, including allegations of mismanagement in the fall and the announcement of the recertification of the plantations last week.

Throughout the afternoon, students and community members chanted, marched, and held signs, which read “Harvard be transparent,” “Faust: no more land grabs,” and “We’re yelling timber, you better move.”

After several members of the Harvard community, including the Undergraduate Council President and a Harvard alumnus working on the City Council, spoke to the protesters gathered in front of Widener, the group marched to Massachusetts Hall, which houses the University’s central administration and President Drew G. Faust’s office. A delegation from the group entered Massachusetts Hall with a petition containing 1,150 signatures, formally asking Faust to change the University’s management of its plantations.

UC president Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15 spoke at the rally, voicing his support for the coalition’s efforts. The UC will be hosting a forum on responsible investment with Obregon and Spataro on Tuesday.

“It is unfortunate, it’s sad, and it’s embarrassing that Harvard is choosing to fund these efforts by damaging a community,” Mayopoulos said.

Cambridge City Council Member and Harvard Kennedy School graduate Leland Cheung also spoke at the rally.

“I’m proud to be a Harvard grad, but there’s so much that is making me ashamed,” Cheung said, citing both the campaign for divestment and the recent unionization movement of DoubleTree hotel employees.

“It’s not enough to try to educate students to go out and change the world when Harvard is going out and damaging the world,” he added.

UPDATED: Also, see the story in Open Media Boston, published on April 19:

Speaking through a translator, Spataro told the demonstrators “we’ve been suffering for years seeing the destruction of the wetlands in our community … we decided to bring the voice of the people who are suffering to the place where the decisions get made, and let them know what effect those decisions have on us.”

Also speaking through a translator, Adrian Obregon told the demonstrators, “a few years ago we tried to get reparations from Harvard for the damage they’ve done on their plantations, and we weren’t able to get anything from them.”

He explained that his own government is only listening to corporations like Harvard, and not the people, saying “they’re not listening to us in our own country.”

Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung spoke in support of the RIH campaign, saying “I’m a Harvard grad, and I’m proud to be a Harvard grad, but there’s so much that’s happening that makes me ashamed.” He says he’s speaking “too often” at similar rallies, including at the Doubletree hotel owned by the university “where workers are not being given a fair process.”

According to Cheung, “it’s not enough to try and educate students to go out and change the world when … Harvard’s actions are in complete contradiction to what they’re teaching all of us to go out and do; the hypocrisy at Harvard has to stop.”

Ed Childs, the chief steward at UNITE HERE’s union local 26 for Harvard’s dining hall workers also spoke in support of the rally, saying “we feel your struggle is our struggle.”

Calling them “two other plantations,” Childs drew attention to the similarities between the situation faced by the Argentinian communities, and workers at the Doubletree hotel and the Harvard Law School during their unionization campaigns, both of which he claims included having to face union busters hired by the university.

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