At about 2:30 a.m. on Friday, Dan Fischer ’12 awoke to the sound of a loud noise outside his tent on Foss Hill.
“Someone started shaking the tent saying ‘Roar I’m a bear,’” Fischer said. “I heard a large thud, the tent was picked up, the stakes uprooted and shaken. Then they ran away and I went back to sleep.”
An unknown group of individuals had attacked and vandalized the tents on the hill where Fischer and other members of the activist group Students for a Just and Sustainable Future (SJSF) are “sleeping out” from April 15 to April 23 to promote a switch to 100 percent clean energy in Connecticut by 2020. SJSF, who chose not to report the incident to Public Safety, says they don’t want the incident to detract from their message.
When the students woke up the morning after the assault, they discovered that their banner, which reads: “Nothing less than 100% clean electricity, nothing more than 350 parts per million CO2” had been stolen. Additionally, their “quadro-pod,” a 15-foot structure made of tree limbs and strewn with pieces of cloth on which students have written their aspirations for climate change, had been knocked over.
“If someone had been under it when it was knocked over, they would have been hurt,” said SJSF member Gemma Smith ’13.
After meeting with the members of SJSF, Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley sent out a campus wide e-mail lamenting the attack on the camp-out, as well as other acts of vandalism on campus that night.
“It is certainly not the first time that I’ve witnessed the aftermath of the damage done by some unknown segment of our community or been angered by the thoughtless vandalism that diminishes our beautiful campus,” he wrote in the e-mail.
SJSF had also submitted a post on the student-run blog Wesleying and posted on the Wesleyan Anonymous Confession Board deploring what had happened and asking for the return of their flag and common decency.
Later Friday night, the banner was returned by another unknown group of individuals.
“We received a knock on the tent and [they said,] ‘We have something of yours that is lost and now is found,’” said SJSF member Erin O’Donnell ’12. “They referred to us as ‘tent people.’”
Although the group did not find out which individuals were involved in the incident, they assume that students are responsible due to the time of the assault and the banner’s return later the same day.
“It is hurtful that our fellow students would hinder our ability to demonstrate peacefully about an issue of social justice,” the group wrote on the Wesleying post.
Although the group said the experiences of the first night were disconcerting, they are insignificant in terms of the aim of the sleep out.
“It was a rough first weekend, not only with the incident, but it was also crappy weather,” said SJSF member Sam Bernhardt ’10. “Next week we’re going to grow. We’re looking forward to a week of good weather, events, and reaching out to people. We’re not trying to dwell on the past.”
“We’re not too worried about people who come bother us who say ‘Roar I’m a bear,’” Fischer added. “They’re not worth our time at this point.”