DURHAM, NC, November 24, 2014 — Durham has become the first U.S. municipality to boycott a company because of its role in perpetuating injustice in Israel/Palestine.
On a night when the Ferguson grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown, Durham residents successfully brought an end to a County contract with private security corporation G4S Secure Solutions.
County Commissioners decided to drop the county’s $1 million annual contract with G4S. They will now put the security contract up for bidding.
G4S previously provided security at Durham County libraries and civic buildings. Durham reconsidered its security contract after residents protested the role of the privatized police force in the community and the company’s involvement in Israeli institutions that detain and discriminate against Palestinians.
“As a long-time Durham resident, the presence in my community of a company that participates in the oppression of my people makes me feel unsafe and unwelcome,” said Ahmad Jitan. “Given their track record in occupied Palestine, I do not expect G4S to have the best interests of people of color here in Durham in mind. If Ferguson can’t even keep the public police force accountable for their actions, how can we expect to keep a private police force like G4S accountable? For the sake of both my homes, I am proud that the county dropped the G4S contract. I do not want my tax money to fund a company that profits from the occupation of my people’s land.”
G4S signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Service in 2007 and its machinery and security officers have been deployed in checkpoints and illegal settlements in occupied Palestine.
“Since I moved to Israel and saw the reality of life for Palestinians with my own eyes, I could no longer remain silent,” said Emily Schneider, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace – NC. “I waited for hours with Palestinian friends at checkpoints that look like cages—that run with G4S security equipment. Thank you, Durham County Commissioners, for boycotting G4S.”
G4S has also been implicated in human rights abuses across the globe, including torture in prisons; in August 2014 the company was awarded a $118 million contract in Guantanamo Bay. It is a target of the international boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) movement.
Earlier this year, an interfaith coalition of seven North Carolina organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, the Salaam-Shalom Committee of the Church of Reconciliation, and the Muslim American Public Affairs Council, wrote a letter to the Durham County Commissioners asking that they reconsider the contract with G4S. Over 200 residents also added their photographs to a visual petition at durhamdropg4s.tumblr.com.
“I grew up in South Africa under apartheid. When I look at the Palestinians, they look very much like me. The same thing is happening to them that happened to us,” said Kay-Robert Volkwijn, a retired Presbyterian minister. “Durham County dropping the contract with G4S Secure Solutions sends a powerful signal that the people in power in the Durham community will not be part of supporting occupation.”
Durham County joins the University of Kent, King’s College London, and the Irish Government, among other institutions, in cutting or denying contracts with G4S due to its activities in Israel/Palestine. Earlier this year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Methodist Church both divested from G4S.
G4S will be allowed to bid in the new County Request for Proposals, which is expected to come out within 30 days. However, the Durham Drop G4S coalition has vowed to continue pressure to ensure G4S does not receive the new contract.