The Divestment Coalition formed between the UEA Decolonise, Palestine Solidarity, and Extinction Rebellion societies. They held a demonstration on November 11 calling on UEA to implement an ethical investment and banking policy.
According to the Coalition, an ethical investment and banking policy would include cutting ties with HSBC, Goldman Sachs, and Barclays, the latter being “Europe’s biggest fossil fuel financer.” As well as this, the Coalition demanded “that companies linked to colonist violence and fossil fuels should not be promoted at UEA Careers Events.” Although they have not been invited to this year’s careers fair, the Coalition aims to ensure such companies like BAE systems, Boeing, and other arms manufacturers are not invited to future events.
Starting at 9am in The Square, the demonstration began with protesters informing security it would be peaceful before walking to the Registry building at 9:30am where the UEA finance committee meeting was expected to be held. Instead, the finance meeting was held online.
Demonstrators mopped the windows of the registry building chanting “clean up your act” and handing out paper leaflets. On the leaflets, QR codes led to the open letter and petition calling on UEA students for support.
Touseef Yousuf Mir, the author of the open letter, told me this call for divestment has been ongoing with very little change. Mir said there was supposed to be a response in September, but UEA gave no update on progress made. “It’s the democratic way of procrastinating things. In a few years everyone will be gone, so they’re trying to wait until the problem goes away by itself.”
As well as putting pressure on UEA to divest, Mir wishes to find out what changes have been made since the previous UEA finance committee meeting this summer, where UEA “promised they would implement steps to debank from Barclays. There have been no follow ups, they’re buying time. They’ve given a commitment to us, when we told them there are about 500 to 600 signatures, do we tell them the university is not acknowledging this?”
Chris Kershaw, President of UEA Decolonise society, said: “We need to divest from companies such as Barclays who underwrite the Israeli government. We want UEA to make an ethical investment policy so UEA students’ university fees do not facilitate the climate crisis or human rights abuses.” Although UEA does not invest directly into Barclays, Chris told me Barclays is used as “the bank into which student tuition fees are paid” and is also used for “the daily financial transactions that go on to make the university run.”