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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Campus protest, rally demands action from UW on Israel-Hamas war

Students gathered outside of Library Mall to demand UW-Madison divest from BlackRock due to ties with the military-industrial complex.

Pro-Palestinian students demonstrated Dec. 11 at Library Mall and in Bascom Hall, encouraging the UW System to divest from BlackRock, an investment management company with heavy ties to the arms industry.

The rally included speakers from various organizations expressing support for Gazan citizens and why they feel the UW System has a moral obligation to take action. 

“All of us in the U.S. who are horrified by the events unfolding in Gaza have an obligation to aim our fire squarely at our own ruling elite, whose decades-long game of chess in the Middle East has led us to the doorstep of the disaster unfolding today,” said Sadie, a member of Socialist Alternative. Sadie did not provide a last name.

“We need to send a message to the ruling class that they can’t get away with this continuing,” Sadie added.

According to promotional material for the event, the UW System has invested $500 million in BlackRock, which further invests in arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Boeing. A 2022 report by the UW Board of Regents Business & Finance Committee confirmed that the UW System currently has close to $486 million invested in long-term funds through BlackRock.

“Almost all Gazans are displaced. Their homes, schools, places of worship and so much more got flattened,” said Miral, a Palestinian graduate student from the West Bank. “All Gazans lost loved ones. Almost all Gazans are injured and hungry.”

Humanitarian disaster in Gaza has been a key focal point of calls for a ceasefire, with over 18,200 Palestinians being killed as of Dec. 11, according to Al Jazeera.

“Our university is complicit in genocide by investing in the companies that profit off of the deaths of my family members alongside Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. So today, we call for divestment,” said Shafiq, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) who also did not give a last name.

Shafiq’s anger echoed similar feelings expressed by pro-Palestinian student protestors on campus over the past two months since Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel ignited conflict in Gaza.

Aidee, a member of Mecha de UW-Madison, a student organization focused on liberation politics for oppressed groups, was one of the final speakers at the event.

“I am Salvadoran-American, and I care about Palestine because Israel was complicit in the Salvadoran Civil War,” Aidee said.

According to Al Jazeera, Israel has a long history of involvement with conflict in Latin America, including the Salvadoran Civil War.

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“Palestine deserves to be liberated and [the horrors of war] are happening again with the U.S. giving money to Israel,” Aidee said. “It is time to free Palestine.”  

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