A demonstration took place outside Hackney Town Hall on Saturday demanding that Hackney Council consider withdrawing investments from companies that operate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Around 60 people attended the protest, organised by Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) with support from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups.
The protest comes after a petition, launched by Hackney PSC and urging the council to divest from 39 companies associated with the conflict, garnered more than 58,000 signatures.
A statement from Hackney PSC by co-secretary Heather Mendick said: “That the petition attracted over 58,000 signatures reflects widespread and growing anger at the injustice of Israeli apartheid and at the violence of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
“While most of the signatures came from the UK and many of them from Hackney, the petition went all over the world including to Palestine and to Israel.”
Demonstrators gathered at the Town Hall at around midday for a 12:30 kick-off.
Speakers at the event included Nic Lee of Hackney Green Party; Trade Union Liasion Officer for Hackney North and Stoke Newington Constituency Labour Party George Binnett; and Kathryn Johnson from the Hackney Trades Council, as well as Hackney PSC co-secretaries Sussan Rassoulie and Heather Mendick.
The petition was handed to a representative of the council at the end of the protest, although organisers expressed disappointment that Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville and Councillor Rob Chapman, Chair of Hackney Council’s Pension Committee, were not present to receive the petition.
The latter recently responded to the change.org petition, prompting hopes that the movement may receive more direct engagement from more senior local councillors.
The statement continued: “We are pleased to see Rob Chapman sending a response to Change.org who hosted our petition.
“We hope that he will now engage directly with Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign and take action to divest the council’s local government pension scheme from companies that are complicit in Israeli human rights abuses on occupied Palestinian land.”
The Council has issued a full statement regarding the issue on their website.
It reads: “Caught in the middle of these all too frequent wars, are the civilians of Israel and Palestine.
“I understand that 279 Palestinians, including 66 children, and 12 Israelis, including two children, died in the latest conflict ─ each death is a tragedy.
“First, I want to be clear that Hackney Council does not directly invest council taxpayers’ money in companies. The Pension Fund’s assets are managed by external managers, with oversight from the Council’s Pensions Committee, which I chair.
“The Committee has recently reviewed the Fund’s investment strategy and will be making some significant changes in order to move to a greener and more sustainable portfolio.
“The Pensions Committee also firmly believes that human rights issues ─ as well as environmental, and social issues ─ are vital considerations when making investment decisions, and as such, we will also be reviewing our Pensions Fund’s responsible investment policies.
“As part of this, we will continue to monitor relevant legislation, court decisions and other developments.”