When 5C student-activists arrived at Claremont McKenna College to protest two of its trustees’ investments in controversial pipeline developments, they weren’t the first ones there.
Even before the protest began at the Cube midday on Nov. 19, members of CMC’s administration and security were already waiting — including an outside contracted videographer.
According to KKR Kills activist Corey LoDuca SC ’24, “As we were arriving, there were already CMC admin members, the videographer and campus security here waiting for us.”
KKR Kills has been mobilizing for Indigenous land rights since the semester began, with Friday’s protest the fourth demonstration this year. The group aims to bring awareness to the large stakes two CMC trustees, George Roberts CM ’66 and Henry Kravis CM ’67, have in natural gas pipelines that they claim infringe on Indigenous lands.
CMC alumni and cousins Roberts and Kravis founded Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, an investment group whose recent acquisitions have invested in pipelines that skirt Yaqui and Wet’suwet’en communities, garnering opposition from Indigenous groups and activists.
At Friday’s protest, demonstrators said they felt members of CMC administration employed tactics, including filming the protest, to intimidate them.
“It seems like the CMC administration is trying to intimidate us,” LoDuca said. “There were multiple administration members out here earlier, recording us, getting our names and telling us that we’re in violation of their poster policy by putting up signs on the Cube.”
CMC spokesperson Gilien Silsby said otherwise.
“There was no attempt to intimidate any participants,” Silsby told TSL via email. “The only issues were: some individuals did not adhere to the Posting and Advertising Policy, and some individuals failed to show identification when asked to do so.”
Silsby said filming protests is in accordance with CMC’s demonstration policies and “is not a new practice.” According to the policies, CMC reserves the right to “photograph or videotape any individual participating in a Demonstration” on campus. The rules also state that “any person must identify themselves by photographic identification when asked to do so” by a college official.
KKR Kills organizer Peter Dien CM ’25 said he felt that the use of footage was meant to intimidate activists from organizing in the future.
“We have the right to have the First Amendment academic freedom to protest on campus, yet we have cameras pointed at us,” Dien said Friday afternoon. “That is a little bit of a coercion tactic that kind of makes us afraid of showing our faces.”
Silsby said CMC has recorded all four KKR demonstrations so far, and that it “provides protection for those who are participating as evidence of their peaceful activity, and for the College as evidence of any policy violations.”
Having film footage to refer back to “is helpful for simultaneously holding participants and the College accountable for compliance with all policies,” Silsby added.
Dien worried that recording the protest could carry negative consequences for students.
“What if everything [in the protest] goes okay, and it goes good? Now they have all our faces,” Dien said. “We could be incriminated for doing something that is within the policy framework of our school.”
The incident calls CMC’s ranking earlier this year as the nation’s top school for free speech into question, Dien said. The Foundation of Individual Rights in Education takes colleges’ policies and “the varied dimensions of free expression on campus” into account in an annual list of free speech rankings.
Students also voiced concerns in response to being told that if they did not comply to share their student IDs, the film footage from the protest would be used to identify them and alert their school deans.
“There were people who did not want to share their name, and they were told that if they were non-compliant, and that their deans would be informed they were non-compliant, and we would all be getting emails from our deans next week,” LoDuca said.
As the protest unfolded, one of the KKR Kills organizers awaited disciplinary measures from Pitzer College for entering Roberts Pavilion in an earlier protest this semester, according to a KKR Kills Instagram post on Dec. 1. The student was later cited for putting posters on the Cube on Nov. 19 and refusing to remove them, the post showed.
The protest also coincided with a developing confrontation between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police force and the Wet’suwet’en Indigenous group in Canada over a blockade that was meant to deter development on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Siena Swift contributed reporting.
Jenna McMurtry PO ’24 currently serves as a news editor for TSL.