When the students unfold their banner near Erasmus’s statue next to the auditorium, there are more guards in attendance than protesting students. Because, yeah, we are in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, which means that not all thirty members were allowed to attend. Four protesters were intending to hand out flyers, but they aren’t allowed to do that, either, because of the pandemic. Moreover, the message chalked onto the campus’s pavement has become illegible due to the rain. At one point it said ‘Act now!’, as well as a few other things. The students do not care whether the words are legible or not, as long as the university promises to take action.
“The climate is changing fast,” says Gideon, who is doing a double master degree in Philosophy and Economics. “We are now a ship heading for an iceberg. We are steering off course just a tiny little bit, but we will hit the iceberg full on anyway. We must change course, and quickly.” University Rebellion wants universities to become carbon neutral, significantly reduce the amount of waste they produce, stop collaborating with polluting companies and incorporate climate change into their curriculums. “This is something that will affect all of us, so why aren’t we all learning about it?”
University Rebellion is an independent movement, but it is affiliated with the better-known Extinction Rebellion, which is active all over the world. In November 2018, thousands of protesters occupied five bridges in London, and in April 2019 a funeral procession was organised in Rotterdam, mourning the future of our planet. The university branch of the action group officially embarked on its activities on Thursday. “You’ll be hearing from us,” Gideon promises before walking away with the other students.
A guard follows the protesters when they leave, to check whether they are not surreptitiously handing out flyers after all.