Two Chicago Teachers Arrested Protesting U. Chicago’s Energy Conference



Chicago, IL – We are parents, teachers, and Extinction Rebellion activists based in Chicago.  On the morning of Friday, April 12, we are intentionally blocking the Energy Forward Conference because we want our children, our students, and all living beings to have a planet that supports the interdependent flourishing of life. We are locking our bodies to the doors of the University Club of Chicago at 76 E. Monroe Street. 

Our message for the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, the host of the conference, and the energy companies sponsoring the conference–Chevron and Exelon–is this: OIL MONEY IS BLOOD MONEY

Burning fossil fuels, using single-use plastics, promoting a consumption-based lifestyle, behaving as if only human concerns have moral significance–all of these bring death, to humans and to our fellow beings, whom we depend on for our own lives.  

Our action today, April 12th, focuses on fossil fuels because thousands of scientists around the world have identified the burning of fossil fuels as the single greatest cause of global warming, which is in turn the cause of sea level rise, wildfires, species extinction, droughts, crop failures and, if we continue with business as usual, human extinction. Although we acknowledge that one panel at theconference will focus on renewable sources of energy, we also recognize that the central premise of the conference is that fossil fuels will continue to be extracted and sold, infrastructure for this enterprise will continue to be built, investments will continue to be solicited, and investors will continue to make unimaginable sums of money from these enterprises.  Yet in October 2018, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued an urgent warning that we must drastically reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2030 in order to avoid irreversible climate tipping points as early as 2040, well within the lifetimes of our children and our current students.  In order to avoid these tipping points, which would leave the next generation to live in a hell on earth, we must stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible, which means we must begin stopping now.

This is an undeniable truth that no amount of talk, or even action, about renewable energy will change.  The burning of fossil fuels must end now, which means that all actions enabling the burning of fossil fuels must end now as well.  To continue with these activities will be to end life as we know it. 

This is why we are using our bodies to try to prevent this conference from happening. Governments, global business, and global diplomacy have all failed to stop the burning of fossil fuels or even slow down the activities–drilling, building pipelines, investing in fossil fuel companies–that allow the future burning of fossil fuels.  When governments fail to protect their citizens, citizens must take action to protect themselves, their children, and their futures.  

As educators, we call on the University of Chicago to end their complicity in the continued burning of fossil fuels.  We call on the University of Chicago to break its ties with the fossil fuel industry, divest from fossil fuel companies, stop co-sponsoring conferences with these companies, and start telling the truth about the culpability of fossil fuel companies in climate change denial. Continuing a close association with these companies while also failing to tell the truth about their overwhelming role in the ultimate destruction of our only home is unworthy of an institution of higher education and makes a mockery of the ideals of truth-seeking, support of just actions, and compassion for suffering that all educational institutions should uphold.   

Oil money is blood money.  The blood of all of our children is on the hands of those who fail to act.

Our action today is in solidarity with the International Week of Rebellion April 15 – 22, whenpeople on every continent will disrupt business as usual through acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. We won’t stop until the planet is safe. 


In Solidarity with Climate Activists Around the World,

Joe Phillips
Ellen McManus

Extinction Rebellion Chicago 

Ellen McManus approached by the police
Joe Phillips under arrest after police cut chains attaching him to the door.
Cutting the chains Joe used to close the main entrance to the University Club of Chicago
Ellen being taken to a police car

Further statement from Extinction Rebellion Chicago:

Hi, my name is Victoria, I am a member of the Chicago chapter of Extinction Rebellion, which is an international movement committed to non-violent civil disobedience in the name of truth and urgent action on the climate crisis. Two of our members, who are educators here in the city are physically blocking the doors to the University Club– which is hosting the Energy Forward Conference. This conference’s goal is to discuss how to maximize returns on fossil fuel investments, and to act as a networking event for graduate students at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. We are here to not only confront the members of the conference, but to also reach out to these students to question why they seek jobs within an industry that is destroying the planet they, presumably, also wish to inhabit. In October of 2018, the UN IPCC issued an urgent warning that we must drastically reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2030 in order to avoid irreversible climate tipping points as early as 2040, well within the lifetimes of the business students attending the conference. I am 27, in 2040 I will be 48– the same age as most of the students attending today. My question to them is, what kind of planet do they want to live on? What kind of future are they planning for themselves and their families? Don’t they want to enjoy the benefits of the planet we live on today?

It’s even more strange because Chicago just became the largest city in the USA to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2050– so why is one of its most prestigious Universities acting as the networking arm for an industry that has been proven to be the single greatest cause of global warming?

Listen, you don’t have to be a scientist to see the writing on the wall. We are currently at 1.1C above pre-industrial levels– and you are already seeing catastrophic flooding of America’s heartland, devastating wildfires, and hurricanes that combined have cost the USA $91 billion in 2018 alone. But it’s not just about cost, what do you say to the farmers who have been can no longer farm on the land their families have toiled on for the past 100 years? What do you say to the family who no longer has a home in Paradise, CA or Puerto Rico, or Houston? We all agree that America’s infrastructure is crumbling, why not invest in a future that we can all live in?

The answer is money. In 2016 250 professors at the University of Chicago in solidarity with student activists, urged the elite private university to purge its $7.6 billion endowment in coal, oil and gas companies. The university did not act then, we are hoping they will act today. Thank you.