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Divestment demonstration continues into day five

Sunday marks day five of Fossil Free UTas’ sit-in demonstration, with students refusing to leave until the university commits to divest its $300 million investment portfolio in the fossil fuel industry.

A group of seven students have occupied the foyer outside Vice Chancellor Peter Rathjen’s office since Wednesday, and tents have been set up on the lawns outside the student centre to house the remaining protesters.

Spokesperson Mell Jones said protesters were in it for the long haul, saying they will continue the demonstration until they receive written and verbal confirmation of divestment from the university.

“We are prepared to stay here for as long as it takes to get a meaningful commitment to divestment,” she said

The group would like to see divestment achieved before the Paris climate summit on November 30.

“We aren’t here to shame the university,” Ms Jones said.

“This is a unique opportunity for the university to become a global leader.”

The demonstration has attracted the attention of several renowned Tasmanian environmentalists, including former Australian Greens leaders, Bob Brown and Christine Milne.

Ms Jones said the former leaders were very supportive, further fuelling the student’s determination to achieve divestment.

“[It is] very encouraging to have this absolute support and approval of what we are doing.”

“We were all getting a bit tired and unsure before that and it just lifted our spirits,” she said.

Dozens of local supporters are also getting behind the sit-in, with messages of encouragement flooding the social media pages of the group.

Friends, family and organisations including The Wilderness Society and 350.org have sent reinforcements, including donations of cake, cheese, pizza and care packages.

The group have received support from other universities around Australia, including La Trobe University, the University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales,

The demonstration has also gained attention internationally with students from the University of Ottawa posting a message on their Fossil Free society Facebook page, and other messages of support coming from as far away as London, Edinburgh and Berlin.

A support rally was held outside Lazenby’s on Wednesday, attracting around 100 participants, including members of university staff.

Ms Jones said that whilst efforts are yet to spark any divestment action from the university, the publicity received has been invaluable.

“Negotiations have been fruitless so far but in terms of media coverage we have been extremely successful, much more than we anticipated,” she said.

Those wanting to get involved can sign an open letter to the Vice Chancellor through a link on the Fossil Free UTas Facebook page, or show their support by visiting the group on campus.

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