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Sunrise Princeton hosts Earth Day climate walkout

Student protesters in front of stone building holding red banner stating “Reclaim Earth Day” walk in a group. One student protester holds a white sign that says “Cut All Ties.”
Students march to Nassau Hall at Sunrise Princeton Earth Day March
Courtesy of Sunrise Princeton

On Monday, April 22 at 12 p.m., climate protestors from the Sunrise Princeton organization organized on Frist North Lawn for their Earth Day protest. The protest was held to draw attention to the group's list of demands for the University, which include an amalgamation of progressive causes including worker’s rights and the conflict in Israel and Palestine.

Sunrise Princeton is a division of the national Sunrise Movement, a political action organization that is working to “stop the climate crisis.“ Eleanor Clemans-Cope ’26 and Alex Norbrook ’26 serve as co-chairs. 


Clemans-Cope is head Opinion editor, and Norbrook is an Opinion columnist for The Daily Princetonian.

The protest was hosted with a coalition of other groups on campus: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Princeton Out of Israel, Re:wild Your Campus, Princeton Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), the Princeton Conservation Society, the Alliance for Jewish Progressives (AJP), and Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR). The email announcing the event noted, “Co-sponsoring this action indicated that each group stands for urgent climate action at princeton, but not that they have signed on to the full list of demands.”

In an interview with the The Daily Princetonian, Clemans-Cope explained that their demands included companies “that are making possible the current military campaign in Gaza,” as well as full divestment and full dissociation from fossil fuel companies and cutting all ties. This would include cutting ties with BP, which currently fully funds Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative.

Rowan Johnson ’27 co-chair of the YDSA Steering Committee said in an interview with the ‘Prince,’ “Our biggest demand is to divest the $700 million that the University has invested into projects that are fueling the climate crisis.” 

Clemans-Cope, in her speech to the crowd, pointed to the many groups present at the protest including YDSA and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 175 “demanding justice for workers because worker justice is climate justice … [and] immigrant justice is climate justice,” she said. SEIU 175 is the Princeton University chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

These demands include better treatment of University workers and construction of housing for workers close to campus. 


In addition, the protest called for justice for Palestinians and justice for incarcerated people which Clemans-Cope said are both part of climate justice. This comes in the wake of recent calls for the University to divest from companies with ties to Israel’s military activity. The divest petition was dismissed by President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 at a February meeting of the Council of the Princeton University Community.

In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ Norbrook expressed Sunrise’s pride in helping to organize the coalition. 

“We’re bringing together workers’ rights groups, Palestine justice groups, climate groups, conservation groups. I think the people that we put in a room together to plan this action was historic, and I think this really signaled a shift in the climate movement, at least on college campuses,” he said.

Norbrook added, “We’re really trying to break down the silo around the mainstream environmentalist movement, and bring in and connect climate with a lot of these other organizing struggles that already exist on campus.”

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Standing in front of a red banner labeled “Reclaim Earth Day,” Clemans-Cope introduced the protest to a crowd of about 50 students and faculty members.

“Right now we’re joining 100 other universities nationwide. From New York, New York to Denver, Colorado from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Gainesville, Florida, from Seattle to San Diego, students across the country and all over the world are reclaiming Earth Day,” she said. 

With Clemans-Cope shouting, “We are the first generation to see the devastating impacts of the climate crisis … But we are the last generation that can do anything about it,” the protest got underway.  

Beginning on Frist North Lawn, protesters marched to Nassau Hall. Outside Nassau Hall, Clemans-Cope used a bullhorn, which prompted Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Jarrett Fisher, a University Free Speech Coordinator, to distribute leaflets that read, “If you do not cease the disruption immediately, you may be removed from the site and may face University-imposed sanctions (including being barred from campus) and/or arrest.” After reading the leaflet aloud, Clemans-Cope stopped using the bullhorn. 

The same leaflets were distributed by Fisher at the protest in support of Columbia’s “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” held on April 19.

Clemans-Cope told the ‘Prince,’ “There are two types of villains in history. There are the villains who sit inside Nassau Hall with the power and not making changes, and there are the villains outside of Nassau Hall, who tell us to shut up, to make sure that our demands cannot be heard. So what we said was, the more you try to fight with us, the louder we will be. We stand by that.” 

At the end of the protest, Mira Eashwaran ’26 sang “Does It Weigh On You?” which is the climate movement version of the 1931 protest song “Which Side Are You On?” that has its roots in the labor movement. Eashwaran is one of the Sunrise Princeton Community Team Leads, and a staff Features writer.

Johnson’s biggest hope for the protest was to make the University aware of their demands. “We want ourselves to be seen, we want ourselves to be heard. We want them to know that we stand for these principles and we’re not going to back down until we get concessions,” he said. 

Norbrook shared plans for the future. “Moving forward, we’re going to see a lot more of that collaboration across with climate. This is really one of the truly coalitional climate actions with this group of people on campus.” 

According to Norbrook, Sunrise is currently planning an action against a national fossil fuel company, though didn't want to give too much away about the planned action. 

Ethan Caldwell is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’

Olivia Sanchez is an associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’ She is from New Jersey and often covers the graduate school and academic departments.

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