Amherst climate activist Marc Osten dies in motorcycle crash

  • In this file photo, Marc Osten, rear, and fellow activists chain themselves to the door of the TD Bank in Amherst, protesting the institution’s involvement in the Dakota Pipeline project. FILE PHOTO

  • Marc Osten Submitted Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2017 12:01:16 AM

AMHERST — A resident well-known for raising awareness about climate change and other progressive issues died Wednesday, two days after suffering critical injuries in a motorcycle crash on Kellogg Avenue.

Emergency responders identified Marc Osten, 55, of Amherst as the motorist transported to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield after the motorcycle he was riding crashed into a tree at 2:41 p.m. on Monday.

Lt. William Menard, who oversees the Amherst Police Department’s detective unit, said town officers and the Massachusetts State Police’s Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Unit are investigating the accident. They have not identified a cause. Osten was traveling east on Kellogg Avenue when the motorcycle crashed.

Osten, a longtime activist, had participated in three recent protests targeting Bank of America and TD Bank. The most recent occurred in front of the Bank of America on South Pleasant Street on April 13 — just four days before the crash. He played the role of a banker in a guerrilla street theater action that included the pretend dousing of customers with what looked like oil.

In December, Osten was one of four people arrested for blocking entrances to the TD Bank on Triangle Street. Then, in March, he and two other protesters tied themselves to mock oil barrels in front of the Bank of America.

Colleen Osten said Friday that her husband was committed to justice for the Native American community and saw a way to accomplish this through divestment from banks.

But she said she hopes people will also remember her husband for the joy he brought others and his being a gifted communicator.

“Marc was a really joyful person,” Osten said

She points to his excelling as a “vlogger,” specifically the hundreds of “Culinary Compass” episodes he filmed in which he would interview food people on travels across the United States and the world. In these, Colleen Osten said, he exhibited his humor, cheekiness and fun, and would always sign off with the phrase “Ciao for Now.”

“It shows the non-political, playful side of Marc,” Colleen Osten said.

Former School Committee member Kathleen Traphagen said she knew Marc Osten for 30 years, from when both were working in Boston, and decided to move to Amherst with her own family after the Ostens had already arrived.

“I think Marc was a person who brought fierce, fierce joy to so much,” Traphagen said. “Anything he did he did 1,000 percent, whether cooking, gardening, music, or a dinner party, or being an activist.”

Traphagen, who was one of the subjects who had the fake oil poured on her head last week, said Marc Osten was a talented organizer and connector, and his death is a huge loss for Amherst and the region’s progressives.

Dr. Kate Atkinson, who runs a family practice in Amherst, said in an email that Osten was a man of political action who should be praised for inspiring others, especially college students.

“He was really rallying young people in our community and his loss is tragic,” Atkinson said.

On the website for his consulting firm, Marc Osten wrote: “I am a direct action strategist, social media specialist, planner, provocateur and front-line activist. I fight greedy, corrupt, shameless corporations and oligarchs that manipulate and control people, erode democratic institutions and destroy our precious planet.”

John Strickland, who lives at the nearby Clark House, said that he and other neighbors came upon the crash after it happened. They saw Osten on the ground, he said.

A town police officer arrived and began providing CPR before anyone else could provide aid, Strickland said.

Strickland said it seemed like Osten lost control, though he was not there to see it firsthand.

“I couldn’t imagine him going very fast,” Strickland said. “It didn’t look like the type of motorcycle you would go speeding with.”

Colleen Osten said her husband’s ride home after having coffee with a friend was going to be no different than any other day, and she had looked forward to joining him for an afternoon walk with their dogs.

“Witnesses say that Marc appeared to have had some sort of physical event that happened first and which led to him losing consciousness and thereafter having the accident,” Osten said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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