Social Issues

Minnesota’s top elected officials hear calls for divestment at state board meeting

supporters are gathering
Members and supporters of the Free Palestine Coalition gather after a Minnesota State Board of Investment meeting to demand divestment of public funds from Israeli banks, bonds, and weapons manufacturers at the Minnesota Senate Building Tuesday.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

Protesters seeking to have the state of Minnesota end any investments in Israeli companies and weapons manufacturers had a chance to directly address the state’s top elected officials on Tuesday.

About 100 people filled the room near the Minnesota Capitol where the State Board of Investment was meeting; lots of them brought signs and Palestinian flags to support those who spoke to the four-person board that includes Gov. Tim Walz.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, State Auditor Julie Blaha and Secretary of State Steve Simon also are on the board.

Governor Tim Walz listens
Gov. Tim Walz and other members of the State Board of Investment listen as members the Free Palestine Coalition speak at a board meeting to demand divestment of public funds from Israeli banks, bonds, and weapons manufacturers at the Minnesota Senate Building on Tuesday.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

Tuesday’s meeting was a similar scene to a previous Board of Investment meeting last November, when speakers also pushed for divestment.

The State Board of Investment manages about $140 billion in state funds — including more than $90 billion from pension plans for public employees.

According to the governor’s office, about $116 million of that — about 0.14 percent — is invested in companies that benefit Israel.

Supporters cheer
Sana Wazwaz of the Free Palestine Coalition leads a divestment chant after public comments at a Minnesota State Board of Investment meeting on Tuesday.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

Many of the protesters who spoke Tuesday said they’re public employees, and they don’t want their pension money going to companies that benefit Israel, or arms manufacturers.

Sana Wazwaz said she just graduated from college and doesn’t want to have a job where her pension funds could be invested in Israel.

“It devastates me to know that my future pension funds are going to be invested in not just the slaughter of my own family, but the destruction of my planet and your planet, every single one of you, that my grandkids will inhabit,” Wazwaz told the board. “Do your due diligence, do your part, and divest.”

Several speakers pointed out that, in the past, the board has divested due to international conflicts. It stopped investments in Belarus and Russia in 2022, and from Iran in 2009.

Walz and the other board members didn’t respond to the public comments beyond thanking the people who came to speak. Protesters gathered for another rally outside the meeting room after the board adjourned, but there was no confrontation or escalation between the board and those in attendance.

In other business Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to adopt a new climate roadmap to help guide investments.

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