Students gathered in front of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center Saturday morning in support of student group Brown Divest’s demand that the University divest from “companies identified as facilitating human rights abuses in Palestine."
Approximately 60 students watched as several speakers from Brown Divest gave short speeches calling on University President Christina Paxson P’19 and the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, to remove endowment funds from several companies that aid Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The demonstration marked Brown Divest’s first formal action since the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies voted to recommend divestment to the Corporation.
“What’s next, President Paxson?” one member of Brown Divest shouted into a megaphone aimed at University Hall. “We did everything we possibly could do. We passed a student referendum, ACCRIP voted yes and now it’s really just up to President Paxson and the Corporation to come to the same conclusion as us. It’s time to divest.”
Brown Divest organized the demonstration to fall during the Corporation’s February meetings, which took place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Yara Doumani ’22, a member of Brown Divest, said that it would have been a plus if the Corporation members saw the protest, but that in the end, it “wasn’t for them.”
“We’re here for the movement,” Doumani said. “The majority of (the) progress we’re going to make is not going to be getting a ‘yes’ from the Corporation. We’re still fighting for that, obviously, but the real progress will come from building a movement that’s institutionalized and sustainable so that people can do this next year and the year after that.”
Doumani said that until the Corporation's next meeting, Brown Divest plans on “meeting with individuals in the Corporation” to convince them to vote for divestment. She added that "this is a strategy that even if we have fully discussed I'm not sure if we're still going to implement."
David Morales MPA’19, who is running for state representative in Rhode Island House District 7, also gave a speech telling the Corporation to “put your money where your mouth is.”
“If you truly care about human rights, if you want to talk about all the great things this liberal campus does on your pamphlets, then start by setting the example of being one of the first campuses to successfully divest every single last penny,” he said.
Morales said that the Corporation’s priority is profits “regardless of the deaths we have seen” in Palestine. The audience responded by shouting, “shame.”
The protest ended with chants of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “free, free Palestine.”
Ifeoma Anyoku ’22, who attended the protest, said she hopes the demonstration shows the Corporation “how much the student body is behind this movement, and how we are not going to back down until they listen to us.”
“I hope it shows them that we won’t accept going to the institution and benefiting from (its) dirty money, and I hope (Paxson) realizes that her students have spunk,” Anyoku said.
University Spokesperson Brian Clark could not be reached for comment by press time.
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that the Corporation is set to vote on divestment during its May meetings. The Herald regrets the error.
Clarification: A previous version of this article stated that until the Corporation's next meeting, Brown Divest plans on “meeting with individuals in the Corporation” to convince them to vote for divestment. The article now includes the following context: Doumani added that "this is a strategy that even if we have fully discussed I'm not sure if we're still going to implement."
Clarification: A previous version of this article incompletely described chanting at the protest. The article now specifies that multiple people were chanting.