Associated Students of PSU (ASPSU) Overwhelmingly Demand Divestment

The following is the text of the resolution adopted overwhelmingly on Oct. 24, 2016, by the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) calling on the university to divest from Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions due to their complicity in human rights violations in Israel/Palestine.

ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY RESOLUTION  Download
AUTHOR (S): Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights
CONTRIBUTOR (S):
TITLE OF RESOLUTION: Resolution to recommend divestment from companies involved in
Israeli military occupation
SPONSOR(S) OF RESOLUTION: ASPSU International Affairs Committee
DATE OF INTRODUCTION TO ASPSU: 05/23/2016
DATE OF FINAL VOTE: Oct. 24, 2016
FINAL VOTE COUNT: 22 in favor, 2 opposed, 1 abstention

THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY RESOLVE TO:

1.01 WHEREAS, the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU), as part of a
diverse academic institution, is deeply committed to standards of ethics, justice, equality and
human rights for all as clearly defined in the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human
Rights;
1.02 WHEREAS, ASPSU is concerned about violations of human rights anywhere and the protection of civilian lives and property in our nation and in the global community;
1.03 WHEREAS, precedence set by the international student movement in solidarity with anti-Apartheid organizers in South Africa advocated for the divestment of companies who profited from Apartheid, and through their support contributed to the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa and the creation of a coalition government to ensure the equal rights of the Indigenous population;
1.04 WHEREAS, Black and Indigenous activists have spoken in support for Palestinian equal rights, connecting the struggles of Palestinians to the struggle against racial and ethnic oppression in the United States and elsewhere, including former political prisoner and President of South Africa Nelson Mandela;
1.05 WHEREAS, Portland State University in 2015 adopted a socially responsible investment screen, in which the Endowment pursues investments that fit within the criteria of Environment, Social and Governance;
1.06 WHEREAS, ASPSU has precedence for divestment from companies expressing unethical business practices with our previous divestment from fossil fuels;
1.07 WHEREAS, Caterpillar Inc. sells specially manufactured bulldozers (D9 bulldozers) to the Israeli military. These bulldozers are directly sold to the Israeli military as part of the U.S. military aid to Israel. They are equipped with armor and weapons by Caterpillar Israel, the company’s sole representative in Israel. These military D9 bulldozers are used as weapons of urban warfare by specific army D9 units to demolish Palestinian homes, entire villages, city neighborhoods and agricultural land. One of these armored bulldozers was responsible for crushing to death Evergreen University student Rachel Corrie in 2003, while she stood in front of a Palestinian home to prevent its demolition;
1.08 WHEREAS, G4S plc, the world’s largest private security firm, through its subsidiary G4S Israel (Hashmira), provides security systems and services to all branches of the Israeli government, including to the Israeli Ministry of Defense headquarters in Tel Aviv, the Israeli armored corps base of Nachshonim, and to several prisons housing Palestinian prisoners who are being held without charge under “Administrative Detention”. The company also provides security systems for the Kishon (“Al Jalameh”) and Jerusalem (“Russian Compound”) detention and interrogation facilities. Human rights organizations have collected evidence showing that Palestinian prisoners are regularly subjected to torture in these facilities. G4S Israel has also provided Israeli illegal and unethical military checkpoints with security equipment, as well as provided guards to businesses in Israeli government authorized settlements, constructed in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in the West Bank. Although the company stated in 2014 that it would not renew some of its contracts, as of today, no change in company operations has been registered on the ground;
1.09 WHEREAS, HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise were contracted (when still a single company) to maintain a biometric identification and scanning systems that is used by the Israeli military. Both companies are contracted with the Israeli military to maintain and support the ‘Basel System’ of biometric scanning that is installed at checkpoints throughout the Palestinian Territories. These checkpoints restrict Palestinians’ freedom of movement, including preventing them from working, going to school or seeing family members. Furthermore, HP Inc. is the sole supplier to the Israeli military of computer servers and laptops, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise manages the Israeli population registrar, a system that differentiates between citizens based on religion and ethnicity, thus enabling systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel;
1.10 WHEREAS, Motorola Solutions is profiting from the Israeli military occupation through providing communication systems to the Israeli military. In addition, the company provides electronic surveillance systems and radar fences to the illegal and unethical settlements, designed to make vast areas of the West Bank inaccessible to Palestinians even when they are the legal owners of the land;
1.11 WHEREAS, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land has been entrenched since 1948. During the 1948 Palestine War over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled and forced to leave their homes due to military advances in what has been called the Nakba. Many Palestinians to this day live as refugees in a diaspora and are not allowed the right of return to Palestine. 1948 was also the year of the Deir Yassin massacre in which over 100 Palestinians – men, women and children, in a small village of 600 people were killed by paramilitary forces. Under Israeli occupation, Palestinians are subjected to repeated violations of human rights as defined by the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights, numerous articles of the Geneva Convention, and the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Violations of rights include: loss of land due to the construction of large Israeli government authorized settlements, segregated roads for settlers, confiscation of valued agricultural and grazing lands, systematic displacement of the population into small, non contiguous geographic enclaves separated by barriers and checkpoints; gross inequality in the amount of water allocated to Palestinians, theft of the land’s natural resources by the occupier; severe and arbitrary travel restrictions; limited access to holy sites; segregated roads; demolition of Palestinian homes; destruction of crops, including the burning of olive trees, by settlers and the Israeli army; and arbitrary arrest, mistreatment when in custody, and imprisonment without due process of Palestinians, including children;
1.12 WHEREAS, the Palestinian population of Gaza is subject to particularly harsh violations of human rights through repeated military attacks using disproportionate force. Israeli military incursions occur on a regular basis. Every few years, these incursions are escalated and are intense and overwhelming to the Gaza civilian population as well as to all emergency and safety services. Israel’s military has caused the death of thousands of civilians (in 2014, for example over 2000 Gazans were killed by Israeli forces, including over 500 children). The Israeli government’s siege on Gaza restricts movement and prevents the entry of products essential to Gazans’ well being,causing major shortages in essential goods. The siege also includes strict control of electronic communications, as well as Israeli military control of air and sea space around Gaza;
1.13 WHEREAS, the Israeli government has annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem denying building permits to Palestinians, as well as revoking the residency rights of many of Jerusalem’s Palestinian citizens;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
2.1 BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) calls on Portland State University to divest any current and future holdings in the following companies and any other company that has been found to profit from human rights violations against Palestinian civilians by the Israeli government , including but not limited to : Caterpillar Inc., Motorola Solutions, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HP Inc., and G4S plc.;
2.2 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Associated Students of Portland State University ASPSU calls on the University to put in place an internal investment screen which prohibits investment in any company that provides weapons or equipment used for violent acts that target either Israeli or Palestinian civilians; provides equipment used for the displacement of Palestinians from their homes or the construction and maintenance of illegal and unethical Israeli government authorized settlements; or supplies equipment used for the construction or maintenance of the Separation Wall in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Rev. Catherine Alder’s letter to Portland City Council

By: Rev. Catherine Alder

Dear Portland City Council,

      I have traveled to Palestine/Israel repeatedly and have seen the destruction caused by the use of the D9’s made by Caterpillar. Caterpillar D9’s are not the cute little bulldozers in the farm fields. They are two-stories tall war machines and destroy Palestinian homes, orchards, water infrastructure, and fields.

     I personally have seen the destruction of homes caused by Caterpillar. I have witnessed the growth over the years of the so-called “Security Fence” which is a huge wall built on Palestinian land by destroying Palestinian homes and land with Caterpillar bulldozers. That Wall blocks families from schools, hospitals, farmland, holy land sites, family and former neighbors. 

    I have witnessed the destruction in Gaza of Palestinian homes while people run to grab their things as a Cat D9 aims at their home.

    Now we have Caterpillar in use destroying sacred land at Standing Rock, South Dakota, once again violating human rights.

Three stories to illustrate:

  1. Daoud Nassar is a Palestinian Christian living in Beit Sahour, the town next to Bethlehem. He is one of the most gentle Christians I know. He invites settlers into his cave, the only place he is allowed to have as a home on his own land. He says to his settler neighbors, “Come in. Come in, but leave your guns outside.” He runs a camp on his land for children to learn nonviolence. People come from around the world to plant trees in this nonviolent camp called Tent of Nations.  His olive tree and fruit orchards have been in the family for generations dating back beyond the Ottoman Empire. Recently, Israel slapped a sign on his property stating that this land now belongs to Israel. While this dispute was in court, and while he was visiting friends in Seattle, WA., Caterpillar bulldozers were used to destroy 1,500 of his trees, ripe for harvest. This was a huge loss of income. Four illegal settlements (according to international law) grow now around his land as more Palestinian homes and land are bulldozed by Caterpillar to create them.
  2. The second story: I met with a family in Bethlehem. The teenage daughter pointed out her window at a fence snaking behind the apartment building where the family lives. She said, “We used to play and have picnics on that land which is ours across that fence. Now it is guarded by soldiers and we cannot farm it or picnic on it.”  Caterpillar had been used to make a path to build that fence cutting off that family from their land. That story is one of thousands of Palestinians’ stories that are similar. 
  3. The third story:  Caterpillar was used to demolish a doctor’s family home in Gaza. Our own American citizen, Rachel Corrie, was standing in front of that home and was bulldozed to death as the Cat D9 ran over her. There is a video of her being seen by the soldier as he advanced the Cat D9 and did not stop. This is not an isolated incident as many lives have been lost as people try to protect their homes and property. 

      Caterpillar meets 6 of the 7 criteria to divest laid out by the SRIC. You will be in very good company if you choose to do so.  There are a growing number of religious denominations which have divested from Caterpillar including the United Church of Christ, of which I am a member and pastor. 

I urge you to divest from Caterpillar and place it on a Do Not Buy list for its numerous human rights violations.

     Peace,

     Rev. Catherine Alder     

Portland Tribune: Don’t let tax dollars support Caterpillar

Source: Portland Tribune
By: Rod Such
Created on Tuesday, 20 September 2016 02:00

Portland’s Socially Responsible Investments Committee recently voted 4-2 to recommend placing Caterpillar Inc. on the city’s Do-Not-Buy List. The recommendation has yet to be approved by the City Council.

However, the council already has voted to exclude Walmart and 200 fossil fuel companies from its $1.7 billion investment portfolio, in keeping with the seven criteria outlined in its socially responsible investment policy.

The city’s policy wisely prohibits the use of our tax dollars to support corporations that violate community values, such as abuse of the environment, human rights, workers’ rights, health concerns and egregious corporate practices, such as extreme tax avoidance and excessive market dominance. The Socially Responsible Investments Committee, a citizen volunteer advisory group, found that Caterpillar violated five of those seven criteria..

In February, the committee heard testimony from Dr. Jeff Halper, co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions; Cindy and Craig Corrie, the parents of Evergreen State College student Rachel Corrie, who was killed by a militarized Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza; the Rev. Diane Dulin of the United Church of Christ; and others who testified about Caterpillar’s involvement in war crimes and other human rights violations resulting from Israel’s illegal settlements and occupation of Palestinian land. The SRIC also received research from Occupation-Free Portland, a coalition of faith, social justice and peace organizations, documenting Caterpillar’s other violations of the socially responsible policy.

Besides human rights abuses, Caterpillar also is a major player in the oil and natural gas extraction industry. It sells powerful portable generators for use in fracking for shale oil in the Bakken Formation, which provides the volatile and unsafe oil being transported by train into the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area.

When the City Council placed 200 fossil fuel companies on its Do-Not-Buy List because they contribute to global warming, it overlooked the key role Caterpillar plays in fossil fuel extraction. Caterpillar also avoided paying $2.4 billion in taxes over a 10-year period, according to a U.S. Senate investigation. Portland placed Walmart on its Do-Not-Buy List for similar tax avoidance.

It was therefore not surprising that the SRIC made its recommendation. Incredibly, however, it has received some pushback. One objection was that the company is not responsible for how its products are used. This claim, however, was quickly debunked by the respected Human Rights Watch, which recently called for sanctions against all companies involved in Israel’s occupation because the occupation itself is a war crime.

In its report, “Occupation Inc.,” Human Rights Watch also called attention to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which does indeed hold businesses accountable for how their products or services are used. Since Caterpillar sells its D9 bulldozer through the U.S. military sales program, it knows full well that its product is being used as a weapon, to build illegal settlements and an illegal Separation Wall, and as an instrument of collective punishment.

Another objection raised is that this recommendation ventures into international affairs and has nothing to do with issues the city of Portland should be concerned about. However, Portland has invested more than $110 million in Caterpillar commercial paper since December 2014, making it a local issue because those are our local tax dollars being invested. Moreover, even if human rights violations against Palestinians seems to be “international,” no less so is the problem of global warming, which the City Council addressed by boycotting 200 fossil fuel companies.

As a local taxpayer, I object to the use of my tax dollars to support corporations that egregiously violate my values. After all, that is why the city drafted a socially responsible investment policy in the first place.

Rod Such is a member of the steering committee of Occupation-Free Portland. Email: info@auphr.org

Occupation-Free Portland (OFP) endorses and supports platform adopted by The Movement for Black Lives.

Occupation-Free Portland (OFP) wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorses and supports the platform recently adopted by The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). The platform, titled “A Vision for Black Lives,” is the product of year-long study and research by a coalition of more than 50 Black-led organizations across the country. OFP encourages all supporters of our divestment campaign to read and study this document which addresses so many key issues facing African-Americans in the United States, including such issues as community control, economic justice, political power, and reparations. The platform not only cites solutions but also outlines concrete steps that can be taken to achieve its goals. It is a model document for all people struggling for justice and an end to oppression.

The platform demands significant changes in U.S. laws and practices that have resulted in continued economic inequalities, criminalization, dehumanization, mass incarceration, disempowerment, and disenfranchisement of Black people.

OFP particularly calls out the platform’s “invest/divest” section for recommending an end to U.S. military aid to Israel and “any country” that violates human rights. Citing Israel’s “apartheid policies” and its more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinians, the document notes the consequences of U.S. aid to Israel: “The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government.” In calling for a solution, the platform recommends participation in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign initiated by more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005.

“A Vision for Black Lives” has been endorsed by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Dream Defenders, the Palestinian National BDS Committee (BNC), the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Jews of Color Caucus within JVP, and the Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, among others.

Occupation-Free Portland is proud to join the many other human rights organizations in adding our endorsement of the M4BL platform as an important proclamation and blueprint for “justice, freedom and equality.”

Jewish Voice for Peace Supports the Movement for Black Lives

From JVP-PDX Core Group:
JVP press release – for wide distribution!

For Immediate Release                                                                  August 7, 2016

Contact:  Ned Rosch, rosch.ned@gmail.com

Jewish Voice for Peace Supports the Movement for Black Lives and is Appalled that the Jewish Federation Disassociates Itself from the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)–Portland and JVP–national both fully endorse the demands and vision boldly and inspiringly laid out in the recently released Movement for Black Lives platform.  The platform, a collective effort of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country, articulates a common vision and agenda and recognizes the shared struggle of Black people with all oppressed people. With the release of this powerful, transformative policy statement, the Black Lives Matter movement has just taken a huge and important step towards the creation of a real movement for social and political change in our country.

Portland JVP endorses the Movement for Black Lives platform in its entirety, without reservation.  However, we are deeply disappointed by the statement released August 4th by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland stating their opposition to the Movement for Black Lives platform due to its call for Black-Palestinian solidarity and support for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The Federation says it will disassociate itself “from the Black Lives Matter platform and all Black Lives Matter organizations that embrace it.”

It is terribly unfortunate that the Jewish Federation is rejecting thorough and inspiring transformational policy ideas developed by a broad coalition of Black leaders simply because these Black leaders have linked the experiences and struggles of Palestinians with their own.  JVP honors those linkages and the non-violent struggle of the Palestinian people, like that of African-Americans, for freedom, justice and equality.

Rather than hear the message, the Jewish Federation chooses instead to kill the messenger. If the Federation wonders why JVP is the fastest growing Jewish organization in the country or why increasing numbers of especially young Jews not only support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, equality and justice, but also feel the Jewish Federation does not speak for them, the Federation need look no further than their deplorable stand on this Movement for Black Lives platform.
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OFP Responds to PSU President Wim Wiewel

Portland State University president Wim Wiewel recently publicly denounced a resolution introduced to the student senate of the Associated Students of PSU calling on the university to divest any holdings in Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. Here is a link to Wiewel’s comments https://voxprez.com/ and here is a response from Occupation-Free Portland.

Imagine if Wiewel’s views of divisiveness and discomfort became the gold standard for academia: True scientific inquiry would come to a halt, because it would be uncomfortable for an academic to have their papers and research challenged and critiqued by colleagues; teachers would have to stop correcting student’s work because students might feel unsafe; civil rights and social justice movements would halt because they are divisive and would make people uncomfortable. Universities would still be segregated. South Africa would still be under apartheid. Free expression of political speech itself would end on college campuses.

Wiewel contends that the resolution introduced dictates opinion. This is false and an affront to the democratic process of student government. The resolution was introduced to the Senate and after due deliberation was voted on. It has passed the first reading by a democratic vote of the Senate and will continue on to a second reading for further deliberation and a final vote. Mr. Wiewel, this is called democracy.  What you are attempting to teach students is, yes, you can have your democracy except when it comes to discussing human rights violations against Palestinians.  This certainly fits the bill for teaching students the current zeitgeist of our political elites but is not about teaching real democracy.

There are a lot of divisive issues on campus: many people feel that the university leadership created divisiveness and made students feel physically unsafe by their decision to arm campus security. Students with mental health issues, which often come to a crisis during their university years, have real reason to fear that armed police will treat them differently than un-armed police.  So the question is not are there divisive issues, but which issue is “too divisive” and for Wim Wiewel, it is too divisive if Israel’s policies are questioned. He is an exceptionalist when it comes to Israel, pure and simple.

By Wiewel’s standard of divisiveness, he would have been vigorously opposed to the desegregation of schools in the South. After all, a majority of white students did not want black students to attend school at all, and how quintessentially divisive was that? Of course, Wiewel would no doubt deny he would have been opposed to desegregation.

Wiewel claims the students are ill-informed. In fact, there are copious amounts of documentation from respected human rights organizations supporting their claims. Wiewel himself appears wildly uninformed about the resolution, and this is clear because his talking points are virtually identical to the talking points of those opposed to divestment: he has taken his points from one side without any real consideration.  He ignores the fact that the Portland Human Rights Commission also considered these companies and voted to support adding them to the City of Portland’s Do-Not-Buy list. He ignores the fact that the Portland Socially Responsible Investment Committee looked at one company, Caterpillar, and also decided to add it to the City’s Do-Not-Buy list. This was all after thorough deliberation and debate. Finally, the opposition to divestment never offered any evidence and did not even attempt to refute the fact that these corporations do indeed violate the human rights of Palestinians.  The United Nations Guiding Principles on the Human Rights Responsibilities of Businesses makes clear that corporations are responsible for how their products are used by their business partners.

He also claims that those opposed to the resolution feel uncomfortable, but he ignores the real discomfort faced by Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students and their supporters on campus. A number of extremely problematic statements were made against Palestinians and others to their face by the opposition at the student senate hearing, including the statement that Palestinians hate Jews more than they love their own children.   One opponent held up a sign “Kapo” while a Jewish woman was speaking for divestment. A “Kapo” was a Jewish collaborator working for the Nazis in the concentration camps.  How divisive is that, Mr. Wiewel?  How comfortable do you think she felt?

According to Mr. Wiewel, any activism should not target specific nations or companies. He complains that, in particular, Israel is being singled out. But any human rights activism, if it is to be more than useless platitudes, deals with specifics: specific victims and specific perpetrators. The Oregon legislature passed a bill that targeted Sudan by ordering divestment from any companies doing business with Sudan because of serious human rights violations in Darfur. This is exactly in the spirit of this current resolution. Is Mr. Wiewel suggesting that it was inappropriate for State of Oregon to target Sudan? This resolution simply attempts hold Israel to the same standards as other countries.

The resolution put forward targets global corporations for well-documented human rights violations. It says nothing about students on campus nor does it criticize any ethnic or religious group. It criticizes the policies of a foreign government and the behavior of multi-national corporations, surely the proper domain of vigorous, open debate in a free society. Mr. Wiewel’s claim that the resolution seeks to marginalize students is simply wrong; it is not about students on campus.

Even worse, he appears to claim that the resolution and the student activism on campus in support of divestment are anti-Semitic. This is a serious charge to make and chilling of free speech, but he offers absolutely no evidence. It is a scurrilous charge and extremely irresponsible for a university president to make so casually against students.

Mr. Wiewel also claims that Portland State University is not invested in any of these companies, but PSU is invested in the State of Oregon’s Public University Fund that does invest in Caterpillar and HP, so this assertion is also incorrect.

The miserable situation Palestinians face today, the settlement expansion, cruel siege of Gaza, military occupation, and home demolitions have continued unabated precisely because the political elites in the U.S. treat Israel with such exceptionalism and protection from scrutiny.  Academic freedom and free political expression are under attack by people like Wim Wiewel because of this continued exceptionalism.

Portland’s Socially Responsible Investments Committee Recommends Putting Caterpillar on City’s Do-Not-Buy List

For Immediate Release:                                        Contact:  Ned Rosch
March 17, 2016                                                                        503-381-7011                                                       

Portland’s Socially Responsible Investments Committee Recommends Putting Caterpillar on City’s Do-Not-Buy List

Portland’s Socially Responsible Investments Committee (SRIC) voted – 4 in favor, 2 opposed – at its March 17th meeting to recommend that City funds should not be invested in Caterpillar, citing concern that Caterpillar Corporation violates a number of the City’s socially responsible investment criteria.

Caterpillar, which provides militarized bulldozers that are used to demolish Palestinian homes, has long been a target of human rights activists. Maxine Fookson, from Occupation-Free Portland, which pushed for Caterpillar to be placed on the Do-Not-Buy List, said “This is an important victory for human rights.  The SRIC today took a stand on the right side of history making it clear that companies, like Caterpillar, that are knowingly engaged in human rights violations in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land should not be supported by Portland investments.” 

The SRIC’s recommendation was based on review of an MSCI analysis which rates companies for their investment potential and includes a screen that looks at environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns.  In addition, the SRIC heard powerful testimony at their February meeting from supporters of Occupation-Free Portland, a campaign committed to getting Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions placed on Portland’s Do-Not-Buy List for their complicity in – and profiting from – the many human rights violations that are part of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. 

Occupation-Free Portland spokesperson Peter Miller remarked, “The SRIC did the right thing because Caterpillar builds militarized bulldozers for the Israeli Defense Forces that are designed specifically to demolish Palestinian homes and tear up infrastructure (roads, sewage, electricity, water, and telecommunication cables) in Israeli-occupied Palestinian cities.  Caterpillar’s actions are human rights violations.  Our goal is to become an occupation-free city by not investing in companies like Caterpillar with horrible records on human rights.”

The SRIC is made up of seven citizens appointed by Portland’s City Council who are charged with implementing a socially responsible investment resolution passed in December 2014.  That resolution lists seven criteria – from environmental impacts to human rights violations -that need to be considered in determining which corporations should be included in Portland’s investment portfolio.

Later this year, the SRIC will recommend to the City Council a list of corporations that should be on Portland’s Do-Not-Buy List. Members of the City Council will consider the SRIC recommendations and make the final decision in this matter.

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Wells Fargo Complicit in Private Prison Industry: City of Portland Committee Recommends Divestment

February 22, 2016 http://www.enlaceintl.org/
Contact: Amanda Aguilar Shank of Enlace, amanda@enlaceintl.org, 503-660-8744

After several months of deliberation and community input, today the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) committee voted unanimously to recommend that the City of Portland divest of their holdings in Wells Fargo & Company due to the company’s financing of for-profit incarceration, and their “morally bankrupt” lending practices.

Paulino Ruiz of Woodburn spoke at today’s SRI committee meeting about his two years in immigrant detention, and his role is catalyzing hunger strikes at the GEO Group owned Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. He said, “I was retaliated against for [the hunger strike]… I had no access to my attorney, my case information, or family support… Just during my detention, prisons and investors like Wells Fargo made over $100,000 that could have been spent doing good for the community instead.”

This decision marks the first time that a public body has voted for divestment from Wells Fargo due to their complicity in the prison industry. This comes on the heels of recent prison divestment by Columbia University and the University of California, and pledges by Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders to outlaw private incarceration.

“We are thrilled that the committee made the right decision today. Our Black, Latino and immigrant communities have suffered enough from incarceration,” said Mary Mendez of Enlace, the Portland- based organization that is convener of the national Prison Divestment Campaign. “Divestment from private prisons is part of a larger movement to end mass incarceration and immigrant detention.”

“Today’s decision indicates that it is time to take the profit motive out of incarceration,” said Kayse Jama, Director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing and coalition partner of the Portland Prison Divestment Campaign. “Private prison corporations and their financial backers like Wells Fargo should not be profiting from incarceration, and should not be allowed to lobby on criminal justice and immigration policy, because their motivation is to put more and more people behind bars.”

Dave Cutler, Finance Director for Service Employees International Union, Local 49 and member of the Socially Responsible Investment committee said, “Portland is becoming a national leader in socially responsible investment. After closely examining Wells Fargo’s history of financial ties with private prisons and predatory lending, it became clear to the committee that the correct decision was to recommend no new investments until the bank’s practices change.”

Today’s decision was the first vote taken by the Socially Responsible Investment committee, which was formed in accordance with a City Council resolution in 2015. The next step to achieve full divestment from the private prison industry is a vote to finalize the committee’s recommendation at the City Council.

The City of Portland currently holds $40 million in Wells Fargo corporate bonds.

This vote comes just days before the University of California Board of Regents will discuss a similar proposal for Wells Fargo divestment, brought by the California-based Afrikan Black Coalition. The Board of Regents controls the largest University fund in the country, with assets of approximately $100 billion.

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