BDS Targets G4S Prison Profits In Portland

Today, activists with the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement staged a protest at the local office of G4S, a private prison and security firm, in opposition to their operation of apartheid prisons and checkpoints within Israel and of their support of Israel’s crimes against Palestinian people. Billed as ‘Rally Against the Profiteers: End the Occupation, Break the Siege‘ the action saw dozens of Portlanders speaking out against G4S.

From the action’s event page:

Israel needs corporate support to maintain the Occupation and business as usual: the suffering imprisonment and human rights abuse of Palestinians. The struggle for justice in Palestine depends on a broad and diverse movement. By disavowing and challenging all forms of oppression we can make our actions more powerful and appealing, and less subject to distortions by pro-Israeli media. BDS stands for Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement – a call for global, peaceful resistance to Israeli militarism, land theft, and other abuses of Palestinian human rights. This call, which comes from Palestinian civil society, emulates the effective tactics used to undermine the economic benefit of the apartheid government of South Africa.

For safety and security reasons, the crowd gathered in a parking lot a few blocks away. After a few introductions and instructions were given to the crowd, speakers provided context as to why the BDS movement is so important. Just this week, BDS had a major victory in preventing an Israeli cargo ship from docking in Oakland, California for 5 days straight.

Organizer Serena Becker explained the purpose of boycott and divestment, “Historically, BDS has been a successful tactic by pressuring governments that violate human rights and international laws. The 2005 Palestinian call for BDS against Israel is a direct response to the failure of international actors to demand an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. The blocking of the Israeli ship Zim Piraeus from docking in Oakland was a powerful action that states we will not allow Israel to conduct business as usual while they occupy Palestine, besiege Gaza, and indiscriminatly kill Palestinian civilians.IMG_0625 Of today’s SW Portland action, organizer Noah Hochman stated, “Portland Jews and allies are calling on G4S – the private security firm that runs Israeli prisons and immigration detention facilities at here in the US – to stop profiting from human rights abuses. We call on the City of Portland to pressure TriMet to disinvest from G4S and to incorporate existing workers as public employees. The City of Portland must meet its own standards of human rights and cancel it $12 million dollar contract with G4S.IMG_0631 Introductions concluded, the crowd walked a short distance to the offices of G4S on SW Macadam Ave. Upon reaching the offices, the group climbed five flights of stairs, proceeded down a hallway, and entered the lobby of G4S. As the crowd filed in, a representative of the activists began reading a declaration of condemnation of G4S. Promptly, two of G4S’s staffers tried to retreat from the lobby into the officers proper. IMG_0637IMG_0643IMG_0649 Several within the group grabbed onto the door, preventing the G4S employees from forcing it shut. A prolonged tense moment took place as both sides struggled to move the door in their own direction. The crowd insisted they were not trying to move past the door, only that they wished to continue reading their statement aloud before leaving. IMG_0652IMG_0655IMG_0658 When it was clear the door wasn’t going to be moved in either direction, members of the group asked G4S staffers if they had any request. No reply was made. At no time did anyone from G4S request or demand that the activists vacate their lobby or leave the premises. IMG_0668IMG_0667IMG_0672IMG_0673IMG_0660IMG_0674IMG_0675IMG_0680 Security reinforcements finally shoved the protestors back and managed to close their office door. Satisfied they had completed their task, the group voluntarily left the lobby and headed downstairs to the sidewalk outside the building for a proper photo op and group chanting via megaphone and PA system. IMG_0691IMG_0706IMG_0710IMG_0717IMG_0722 Having likely been called while the group was still inside the building, half a dozen Portland Police Bureau officers arrived on the scene. Hands went up in the air along with shouts of “Hands up, don’t shoot!” in reference to the recent murder of Michael Brown and subsequent uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. IMG_0762IMG_0767IMG_0786 The officers requested the protesters remain on the sidewalk, not march down Macadam (which nobody had planned on anyway), and not return inside G4S’s office. Organizers confirmed there was currently no plan for that, either. With the action complete and successful, the crowd gradually dispersed with plans for future meetings and actions. IMG_0782IMG_0779IMG_0792IMG_0791 Ending Israel’s atrocities against Palestine might seem impossible from within the United States. Yet at one time the idea of ending South African apartheid and electing the “terrorist” Nelson Mandela were thought impossible, too. If recent events are any indication, BDS as a tactic and as a movement is about to become a lot more active in Portland and across the US.

See you in the streets.

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Full press release of today’s action HERE.