Pittsburgh environmental activists attempt to "exorcise" politicians, institutions who support fossil fuels | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh environmental activists attempt to "exorcise" politicians, institutions who support fossil fuels

click to enlarge A Catholic priest performs an "exorcism" in a staged effigy during an environmental protest on Jan. 27 - CP PHOTO: JORDANA ROSENFELD
CP Photo: Jordana Rosenfeld
A Catholic priest performs an "exorcism" in a staged effigy during an environmental protest on Jan. 27
A small coalition of environmental activists gathered in Friendship Park on Jan. 27 to call attention to individuals and institutions in southwestern Pennsylvania that they call bad actors in the current climate crisis.

“This mobilization is in response to a climate crisis caused by the actors who have chosen to ignore the warnings of experts and members of the public about the risks of continuing to support the fossil fuel industry,” a statement from organizers reads.

The coalition includes members of the Ohio Valley Environmental Resistance, the Green Party of Allegheny County, and the Pittsburgh Sunrise Movement. An estimated 25 people attended the roughly half-hour-long ceremony, which included speeches from organizers as well as an “exorcism” performed by a Catholic priest and the burning of an effigy symbolizing “bankers, politicians, university chancellors,” and others invested in the fossil fuel industry.


Organizers demand “an end to fossil fuel usage and a just transition to a sustainable economy,” according to their statement. They also demand that the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University divest from fossil fuels and that Allegheny County Council ban fracking on county lands.

“In our heads, the climate crisis often looms faceless and larger than we can imagine,” organizer Kelsey McNaul said at the gathering. "However, tonight’s event is a stark reminder that despite this, there are very specific actors behind the curtain perpetuating the ecological collapse of our earth. Governments, corporations, and institutions are constantly putting profit and privilege over the survival of our communities and planet.”


The organizers sought to highlight what they consider specific bad actors including corporations such as Shell, EQT, Range Resources, Exxon, and Sunoco; politicians such as Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh), and U.S. Rep. Connor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon), who they name as supporters of the fracking and petrochemical industries; banks and financial firms such as Chase, Goldman Sachs, Blackrock, and PNC who they say provide financial support for those industries; and educational institutions such as the Pitt and CMU who they claim refuse to divest their endowments from fossil fuels despite the warnings of students who say such investments jeopardize their future.

A CMU spokesperson declined to comment. Pitt has not yet responded to Pittsburgh City Paper’s request for comment.


Organizers urge people in southwestern Pennsylvania to “take action however they deem fit, to shut down the fossil fuel industry before it is too late to prevent the catastrophic impacts of climate change and other forms of ecological devastation.”

The effigy bore the names and logos of fossil fuel companies, as well as the local institutions. The priest instructed those present to stretch their arms out towards the effigy as he circled it, tossing “holy oil” on it, and led onlookers in a chant listing the name of corporate and institutional “demons,” punctuated by the refrain, “Out you demons!”

After the exorcism, organizers lit the effigy on fire and used it to roast marshmallows.

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