At the end of their art-filled exhibition on Monday night, NU Divest leaders announced a new targeted campaign against G4S, the world’s largest private security corporation and one of the corporations that NU Divest has been campaigning against since their launch last January.
NU Divest organizers united in a half circle in front of a crowd of 50 students and called on Northwestern University to divest from their direct holdings in G4S. They said the corporation commits human rights violations around the globe by providing services and equipment to Israeli prisons that torture Palestinians and by assisting the US government detain migrants at the US-Mexico border.
As soon as lead organizers announced the new campaign, the crowd erupted into the chant “Divest G4S!” that reverberated through the high-vaulted ceiling of Parkes’ social hall.
In an email provided to NBN from NU Divest, Northwestern’s Chief Investment Officer William McLean said that Northwestern directly holds almost $3 million in equities in G4S and Caterpillar. Zahra Haider, an organizer in NU Divest and a Medill junior, said McLean’s email validated their protests and inspired the new campaign.
“We always knew it was more than likely that the university had holdings in some of the corporations,” said Haider, referring to Caterpillar, G4S, Lockheed Martin, Hewlett-Packard, Boeing and Elbit Systems — the six corporations NU Divest identified as benefitting from the occupation of Palestine. “The confirmation that the university has holdings in G4S and Caterpillar reaffirms that our goals were not just idealistic.”
The renewed calls for divestment from G4S will be a short-term campaign to raise awareness, Haider said. NU Divest will have a booth open every day on campus, and will post a petition online. Haider said the campaign would last “long enough” before switching to another direct action campaign against Caterpillar. “We thought we’d tackle them one at a time,” she said.
Before the announcement, over 70 students mingled in the open room, exploring the various exhibits on display for the “Decolonize Your Mind: A Night With NU Divest” event. With music playing, intermittent poetry recitations and free baklava, pita chips and hummus, the event continued in the centuries-long tradition of resisting and surviving indomitable, oppressive structures with conscientious culture and art.
One exhibit included a concept map that drew connections between the six corporations, the problems they encourage — the prison industrial complex, immigration, colonialism and gender-based violence, and Northwestern itself. A second exhibit allowed event goers to play “BDS Pong,” with each red Solo cup filled not with beer, but with a fact about the BDS movement. Another included a music stand with a textbook open to a page with the NU Divest resolution, and two others allowed the event attendees to draw their own graffiti on the West Bank Wall and to write about how their mind has been colonized.
“The whole purpose of the event is to be a precursor to future action, to remind everyone of what we’ve done so far condensed into one exhibition,” said NU Divest organizer and Weinberg sophomore Yusuf Kudaimi, who created and displayed a timeline of NU Divest keystone events.
Many of the event’s attendees came in solidarity from Black Lives Matter NU and MEChA de Northwestern. One Evanston resident who attended the event said he thought it was “excellent” that NU Divest had been able to form a broad coalition of students.
“I’ve been at this thing since 1993, and I think it’s great that NU Divest students have connected with students from other backgrounds,” said Newland Smith, who works with the Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy. “Intersectionality is key to having a voice with the administration, and we know that divestment movements have historically gained traction first in universities.”
In the coming days, NU Divest plans to release their petition against G4S and their statement on the new campaign.