Home » Richmond Agrees to Divest Money Away From Israel

Richmond Agrees to Divest Money Away From Israel

by CC News
Richmond

On Tuesday, the Richmond City Council voted 5-0 to divest from companies who do business in Israel.

Ultimately, Richmond as $600 million to invest and this ordinance would impact about 6.9% of their portfolio.  Under the policy, the City of Richmond created a predetermined list of companies that are involved in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights.

These include:

  • Airbnb
  • Caterpillar and Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation
  • Cisco
  • Dell
  • First Solar Inc.
  • Intel Corporation
  • Internal Business Machines Corporation (IBM)
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Motorola Solutions
  • Wix.com

Prior to the discussion, Mayor Eduardo Martinez shared, “we all have a conscious, for some of us that conscious is activated right away. For the rest of us, it takes time to catch up. I want to honor those who have been resisting this genocide for 29-weeks in Gaza and around the world. So many young people have put their lives, their bodies, livelihood on the line to voice their resistance to what is happening.”

He shared the city has tools available to them to allow them to act on their conscious, by then sharing stories and accounts of what is going on in Gaza,

“I do not believe our city should profit in any way from companies who facilitate this kind of violence,” stated Martinez. “This is not only in Gaza, but any other place in the world. We need to do ethical investing. We need to be socially conscious in how we spend our money and where our money goes to… our monies should be used to build societies, not destroy it.”

The council then received its presentation.

Richmond, however, has taken a stance in the past, having an ordinance related to the Apartheid in South Africa and in 1984, created an ordinance not to purchase goods or services from South Africa (Ordinance 10-86).

According to staff, the first question they received was could the City of Richmond mimic what the City of Hayward did. Staff explained they Hayward does direct investment, as Richmond does local agency funds and CalTrust, local agencies participate in a State portfolio (a big pool of money) – Richmond is 1 of 475 cities that invest in LAIF .

Under the proposed Changes:

New Restriction 1: It is the City’s policy not to invest in a predetermined list of companies and their subsidiaries that are involved in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

New Restriction 2: It is the City’s policy not to invest in companies and their subsidiaries involved in the development and manufacturing of arms and weapons.

This restriction would encompass companies involved in the arms and weapons manufacturing industries, who develop and manufacture such items as:

  • All forms of munitions.
  • Artillery systems.
  • Fighter jets, attack helicopters, warplanes, and warships.
  • Firearms and accessories (scopes, sights).
  • Military robots.
  • Missiles.
  • Military and commercial drones.
  • Software that supports drones and missiles systems (such as control actuation systems).
  • Tactical body gear/body armor.
  • Tactical, military, and armored vehicles; tank transporters.

New Restriction 3: It is the City’s policy not to invest in companies and their subsidiaries that are involved in the border and mass surveillance industries

New Restriction 4: It is the City’s policy not to invest in companies and their subsidiaries that are involved in the mass incarceration and detention industries, nor those companies that use prison labor to manufacture products.

Public Comments

  • A total of 34 in person speakers and 30 speakers online given 2-minutes to speak.

Council Discussion

Martinez shared he believed this was an item focused on “responsible investment” and they have a president who warned everyone about the industrial military complex which needs war to make profits.

“As long as they continue to promote war, they continue to make profits,” stated Martinez noting a missile costs $20 million to make which does not count the destruction it makes. “We have people who are invested in war and they don’t care about you or me and all they care about is profit. This divestment is to break that chain so we can begin to invest in people and not in war, missiles or destruction.”

Councilmember Claudia Jimenez called Richmond a diverse city and the council needs to recognize all of the community. Noting that Palestinian residents are experience pain and suffering and they belong in the community.

“We are using the local power that we have to speak up against this horror,” stated Jimenez. “This item is very clear because its about showing with actions and values… we are showing with this local action that we value life, we value immigrant residents, or residents who are coming home or deserve a second chance. We chose to condemn wars. The time is calling us to now not to be complacent with genocide.”

Councilmember Cesar Zepeda agreed that they should be divesting away from anything war or oppression which all goes counter to what they should be doing as humans.

He also questioned why the City of Richmond was discussing divesting versus no longer purchasing things.

Staff suggested that Zepeda was essentially calling for a boycott.

“I am trying to figure out if there is no teeth, what is it that we are trying to do at the end of the day,” responded Zepeda while also questioned why not include other countries as well like China.

Staff responded through the direction of the mayor, they are concerned right now about the genocide of the Palestinian people—moral urgency right now and they could think about other human rights abuses in the future.

Martinez interjected saying this is against all governments who promote genocide, oppression, or apartheid.

“I don’t care who they are or where they are. If they are doing harm to the people around them, they are wrong and we need to divest from them,” stated Martinez. “Its really difficult because of the military industrial complex to abort ourselves from it. We would have to stop drinking Coca Cola, stop drinking Pepsi, stop eating Quaker Oats, stop eating Kentucky Fried Chicken. There is so much money going into war, from so many different angles… healthcare is making money off people in prison.”

“It sounds like we may need to edit this to include China and other countries,” stated Zepeda.

City of Richmond

Shiva Mishek, chief of staff to Mayor Eduardo Martinez helped craft the policy

Shiva Mishek, chief of staff to Mayor Eduardo Martinez, then requested the council to expand the list as this was just a starting place for consideration.

“What many people have found disturbing through this conflict is the extent to which our country supports the violence that is happening in Gaza right now. If you notice, I think all companies on this list is United States Counties,” stated Mishek “I think this list can be expanded, there are so many companies that are intertwined in incarceration, occupations, surveillance, obviously I am not on council, but I think if council wants to expand the list, there is no shortage of villains.”

Councilmember Soheila Bana shared she was proud to co-sponsor the agenda item.

“This agenda item is about prisoners, about immigrant, is about Palestinians, its anti-apartheid and it is against genocide and war crimes,” stated Bana. “More than anything, fundamentally, it is about us and our humanity. This is to affirm that we do not want to be accomplices in these crimes.”

She said Richmond did not want to profit from the war or killing of thousands of men, women and children in Gaza who have no place to go. Nor the prison industry industry or slavery practices. Nor handcuffing patients in the healthcare industry.

“Tonight, we are doing what Congress should have done. Our state and federal leaders have let us down and responsibility has fallen on our college students who have stood up that this nation will not be complacent with mass murder and genocide,” stated Bana. “Together, we stand for justice and humanity.”

Councilmember Melvin Willis shared he didn’t want the city to profit off of other peoples suffering and did not want to enable someone else’s prejudice and hiding behind propaganda that is slaughtering families.

“It’s not okay and we need to start somewhere,” said Willis. “I hope other cities pass a divestment policy like this and that the rest of the national leaders wake up and start to take this seriously. Ceasefire now and free Palestine from genocide.”

Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin said she was proud to be a co-sponsor of the item noting that if they were the first to call for a ceasefire, but only to then profit from it, they would be hypocrites.

“Unlike our national government who talk out of one side of their mouth saying they are telling the Israeli government that they should do everything possible to avoid civilian killings which of course is not doing an iota of good. Then on the other side of their mouth they approve millions of dollars of war machinery and weaponry to the Israeli government with our tax dollars, they are being hypocritical,” stated McLaughlin. “They are being complicit in genocide.”

She thanked the young people for opening up their eyes and taking a stand.

Councilmember Doria Robinson said she was proud of the city and proud of Richmond to take on the issue by being courageous to stand in alignment with their values.

The motion passed in a 5-0 vote with Councilmember Zepeda abstaining.


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5 comments

MODERATE May 2, 2024 - 1:48 pm

Wow, the government of Israel will be trembling at this. More vacuous virtue-signaling. The Richmond City Council is very presumptuous to be lecturing the public about their “conscious” (presumably this is supposed to mean “conscience”). Leave everyone to their own “conscious,” Mayor.

RS May 3, 2024 - 3:23 am

Totally agree here. All these cities/towns are fundamentally only making themselves feel better. It’s utter b*lls*it and bears no significant effect to the needs countries have to defend or protect themselves.

I also ponder what exactly is going on. I mean, Ukraine has felt the persistence of a similar devastation to its people and infratrusture; the Philippines suffer irresponsible and illegal water cannons by the “Chinese Coast Guard” (what a joke!) firing on supply ships trying to service a beached Philippine boat; Myanmar is imprisoning anyone who offends the current regime with arrests and executions; Taiwan, a country never ruled by China, gets pressured daily by the Chinese War Machine under the pretense of “always belonging to China”; Sudan — ugghhh, what can anyone say here about the brutality happening; and this is just the major atrocities happening in the world.

Where were all the efforts made to divest, reprimand and cause public outcry for these other issues that are of equal if not greater importance to democracy? Having this effort for just the Gaza problem…..is a problem!!

Street Sweeper May 3, 2024 - 9:39 am

Can California divest Richmond off the planet…oh and Antioch while they are at it?

Jiveass honky May 4, 2024 - 9:38 am

Have the citizens of Richmond read about how the city of Chicago can’t find money to help da poor people , but they “found” 300+ million dollars for da ILLEGALS. This is coming to Richmond soon.

Hairy Bosch May 8, 2024 - 11:13 am

Does the ordinance only address “investments” into certain companies? I assume, like many municipalities, the City of Richmond uses Dell computers, Microsoft operating systems, Motorola radios, etc. I assume their police department has ammunition issued to officers. Every time the City spends money on these items they are contributing to the “profits” of said companies who are perpetuating war and oppression in the world. Come on Richmond, cancel all current contracts and switch to companies that don’t oppress. Be the leaders you intend to be with this important vote.

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