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Divestment Rally Derails Board Meeting at Carleton

Students vow to “not let campus profit from suffering”

by Andy Crosby

Independent Jewish Voices
Independent Jewish Voices
Sit-in (Robertson Hall)
Sit-in (Robertson Hall)
Speech (Robertson Hall)
Speech (Robertson Hall)
Rally (Robertson Hall)
Rally (Robertson Hall)
Board Members' Access Denied
Board Members' Access Denied
Rally (Robertson Hall)
Rally (Robertson Hall)
Walk of Shame 1
Walk of Shame 1
Walk of Shame 2
Walk of Shame 2
Walk of Shame 3
Walk of Shame 3
General Assembly Vote
General Assembly Vote

Several hundred students and their supporters rallied at Carleton University on Mar. 29 to pressure the Board of Governors to heed students’ calls for divestment from companies involved in Israeli apartheid, the lowering of tuition fees, and the establishment of a student-run sexual assault support centre.

The Board had refused to hear a motion to divest the university’s pension fund from companies profiting from the occupation of the Palestinian territories. As the Leveller reported last year (Volume 2, Issue 3), the pension fund is invested in four companies complicit in violations of international law in Palestine. Motorola, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, and Tesco have profited from supporting and sustaining apartheid by contributing to Israel’s war-making and surveillance capabilities in Gaza and the West Bank. According to the Leveller, Carleton invests over $2 million in these companies.

Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) had organized the demonstration to protest the exclusion of students from the Board of Governors meeting. The demonstrators marched to Robertson Hall, where security had blocked all access to the elevator and stairwells in anticipation of the highly publicized rally. The large crowd held a sit-in, gave speeches, chanted, and danced on the first floor of the building.

Although some board members, with the aid of security, were able to wade through the crowd to take the elevator to the sixth floor for the meeting, others were denied access. Students succeeded in blocking access to the elevator while also barricading other stairwells and points of entry into the building. Some moved to the basement to block access to the building through the university’s tunnel complex. Students effectively used campus security’s strategy of barricading against them.

Eventually, Carleton’s Director of Communications Jason MacDonald announced that the meeting had been cancelled because not all members were able to attend. As board members filed out of the building, demonstrators formed a path that they loudly called the “walk of shame.”

Students celebrated and then held a General Assembly on the first floor of Robertson Hall. Four motions were passed unanimously by the students: the abolition of tuition fees, divestment from war profiteering in illegal occupations; establishment of a university-funded, student-run sexual assault support centre; and the replacement of the Board of Governors with students and campus workers.

Afterwards, most demonstrators proceeded back to the University Centre to celebrate. A small contingent remained behind to wait for President Roseann Runte, who exited the building through the tunnels to the parking garage. A group of students surrounded her car and prevented her from leaving for ten minutes until police ordered them to disperse.

SAIA’s call for divestment from companies complicit in Israeli apartheid follows the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Initiated in 2005 by 171 Palestinian civil society groups, the campaign has since had success in pressuring post-secondary institutions in the US and UK to divest.

At Carleton, students vow to maintain pressure on the university administration. “Until they put us on the agenda to talk about ethical investing, to talk about divesting from war crimes in Palestine, we’re going to come back every single meeting,” announced SAIA’s Aidan Macdonald.

(originally published on the Leveller website on April 1, 2011)


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