Week of Action to Divest from the War Machine: February 5-11, 2018

World Beyond War is joining with Code Pink to promote a week of actions to divest from the war machine.

The War Machine refers to the massive, global U.S. military apparatus that operates largely thanks to an alliance between the arms industry and policy makers.

We need to tell the companies that earn their profits from the spread of war and militarism that their priorities are not our priorities. As we join together to take action against the War Machine here are some ways to get started

In your community:

Identify a financial institution to be the focus of your own campaign: The War Machine is funded by innocuous institutions like university endowments, pension funds, retirement funds, banks, and many other financial institutions. The first step towards taking action in your community is identifying the financial institution you want to focus on. Look around your community for a possible focus – a university; city, county, or state retirement funds; union pension funds; hospital endowments; teacher retirement funds; chamber of commerce; churches, mosques, temples; schools with military recruitment programs; other financial institutions. Don’t Bank on the Bomb has compiled a comprehensive list of the top U.S. investors in weapons companies.

Host a discussion and planning meeting in your community: Not ready for a big action or rally? Need to organize your members or friends or fellow students? Host an initial discussion and organizing meeting. Highlight how divestment is a powerful tool for peace, and resulted in over 5 trillion dollars being divested from the fossil fuel industry. Talk about how 64% of the federal discretionary budget goes to war and militarism. Contrast military spending with education spending or healthcare or services like housing for the homeless. In 2016, the federal government gave $304 billion directly to corporations to fund war and militarism at home and abroad, while 43 million Americans live in poverty, with consequences such as: poor or no healthcare; food insecurity; chronically living without basic services like electricity and water. Why are we choosing to line the pockets of CEOs who destroy lives instead of caring for fellow Americans? Discuss why this issue is important to you all, then plan next steps to choose a financial institution for your campaign.

Host a research or letter-writing party: Have you selected a focus for your campaign? Invite a group for a research party! Have everyone bring their laptops and research whether the financial institution has a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy in place that explicitly prohibits investment in arms companies. If there are no policies on record you can assume that funds are being invested in companies that create bombs, guns, tanks, fighter jets, drones, and other tools of warfare. Or host a letter writing party! Have everyone write a letter to the fund manager requesting information on investments in arms companies, and requesting the adoption of a formal policy excluding investment in arms companies.

Plan A Creative Action (and share on social media with the hashtag #divestfromwar!):

  1. Focusing on a University – Get students, alumni, and even professors to write letters to the University Board calling for them to divest the endowment and/or retirement funds from companies that make a killing on killing. Identify weapons companies your school is invested in or takes money from, and publish an ad in the student newspaper telling your administration to stop make a killing on killing. Print out the ad and put it around campus. Send the ad to trustees and key alumni. Read more ideas for a divestment campaign at your university here.
  2. City Funds – Go to a City Council meeting and start asking questions. Start a petition and talk to your neighbors, asking them to sign and write letters to city officials. Host a local lobby day and visit city officials, asking them to advocate for funds to be directed toward life-affirming investments and asking them to pass legislation that solidifies that policy. Host a rally in front of City Hall (or another government entity) and demand that the City stop funding war.
  3. Financial Institutions – Host a rally in front of a large financial institution and demand that they stop funding war. Banks, investment firms, trading
    companies. These are all possible focus points for a campaign. Get a group together to move their money. Get everyone to close their accounts and move their money to a local credit union or one of these socially responsible banks.
  4. Religious Institutions – Just like teachers, firefighters, and police, our places of worship often invest money in retirement funds. Go meet with your local church, temple, or mosque leader and talk to them about why funding war is not in line with our religious principles. Ask them to move their personal funds and help advocate for their colleagues to do so as well. If the local representative is a part of a national organization then ask them to work with you to change the policy of the organization at the highest level possible.
  5. Union or other Employee Pension Funds – Send a letter to the union asking them to divest their funds from war and invest in local jobs. Focusing on a teacher union? Dress up as bombs and march in front of the Union Hall. Possible Chant? “Books, not Bombs”
  6. Hospital Endowment – Dress up as wounded civilians, bombs, or other symbols of the War Machine, and hand out fliers to hospital employees and patients as they leave the building, highlighting that the hospital is invested in killing. Create a petition to the hospital board and ask employees and patients to sign. Send a letter to the hospital asking them to reinvest in life-affirming jobs, not companies that profit from death.
  7. Opposing Military Recruitment in School – Don’t want the kids in your community preyed upon by military recruiters? Print out a version of this petition to demand your State legislators provide an easy and clear means for parents to prohibit their child’s information to be sent to the Pentagon for recruitment purposes- a process called “opting out.” Gather other parents in your community and gather signatures outside a local grocery store or farmer’s market.
  8. Member of Congress: Visit opensecrets.org to research whether your elected officials accept campaign contributions from weapons companies. If so, gather a group for a day of lobbying or a letter-writing party to demand your elected officials stop taking money from the merchants of death. If they don’t, visit their office and present them with a “Clean Bill of Wealth” to reward them.

Follow-Up: After your action, don’t forget to follow-up! Did your mayor pledge to move City Council? Schedule a meeting to ask about progress. Find out how you can help move action forward. Did you get a group to move money to a different financial institution? Meet with the new bank and ask them to issue a statement or policy that solidifies their commitment to funding businesses and projects that promote your local peace economy. Are you trying to move a University or Hospital? Take the next step with follow-up letters or attending board meetings. Send in opinion articles to the newspaper and post about it on social media. Rally your friends and/or organization members to help you elevate your campaign and cast more attention on the financial institution.

Next steps: Were you successful? Pick another financial institution and keep the momentum going. Billions of dollars are funnelled into the War Machine, but we have to power to decide where our money goes. Are you ready to move on to another aspect of divesting from the War Machine? Unfortunately, this is a powerful machine, but the good news is we can help you figure out other ways to get involved – divest your tax dollars, stop military recruiting in high schools, go bigger – focus on your state or federal representatives.


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