St. Paul, MN – On the evening of November 28, 500 protesters gathered in below freezing temperatures on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol. The protest, organized by the Free Palestine Coalition, demanded that the State Board of Investment (SBI) divest over $1 billion currently invested in Israeli bonds, banks, weapons manufacturers and other entities that profit from Israeli apartheid.
In total, the SBI manages and invests over $128 billion of Minnesota taxpayer money. Board members include Governor Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, State Auditor Julie Blaha and Secretary of State Steve Simon.
Held on the eve of the SBI meeting on November 29, which is also the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the protest was a continuation of a multi-year campaign spearheaded by groups, including the MN Anti-War Committee, to demand the SBI divest public pension funds from the system of apartheid and ethnic cleansing in occupied Palestine.
Despite the cold, a large crowd formed on the capitol steps to attend the rally. It was evidence of the passion and dedication the Palestinian cause has brought about during the decades of occupation.
Mariam El-Khatib, a member of American Muslims for Palestine, kicked off the rally, “America, it’s a fact. Israel would not be able to do what it’s doing without the U.S. We are funding the ethnic cleansing of the people of Palestine. We are funding the killing of children. We are funding the killing of civilians. We are funding the bombing of hospitals. We are funding Israel’s war crimes and atrocities. So whether you like it or not, all of us are implicated – because we live in this country and pay tax dollars. So whether you like it or not we have to speak up!”
Skyler Dorr, a rank-and-file member of AFSCME 3800 at the University of Minnesota and an anti-Zionist Jew, stated, “I am a pissed off public employee, and I don’t want my retirement fund invested in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine! Shame on the State Board of Investment for implicating all of us in genocide, shame!”
As the last speaker on the program, Brian Chval from the MN Anti-War Committee rallied the crowd, “As the tax paying constituents of the state of Minnesota, I think we should have a say in how our money is invested. So I ask you, $283 million for weapons manufacturers that sell to Israel. Invest or divest? Nearly $50 million for Siemens, who provides electrical grid services to Israel and its settlements on stolen Palestinian land. Invest or divest? Almost $25 million in direct investments in Israel in the form of bonds, who has occupied and oppressed Palestinians for over 75 years. Invest or divest?”
Each time, the crowd erupted, “Divest!”
Other speakers included Julia Pearlstein-Levy from Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, Palestinian activist Dr. Christine Harb, and Natasha Dockter of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59.
Protesters were encouraged to come back to the capitol the next day to attend the State Board of Investment meeting.
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