Aug 27, 2017 - Divest Gainesville from Fossil Fuels & Private Prisons

A couple month’s ago, deeply inspired by the resistance at Standing Rock, and the Native-led campaign in Seattle for individual and city divestment from pipeline-funding banks, I decided to call together a meeting of folks interested in doing the same here in little ol’ Gainesville, Florida.

I felt deep hope in the campaign tactic of moving our money en masse. Indeed, it made sense to me that, if corporate interests won’t listen to our voices, they *will* listen to our money.

At the first meeting, just one person came. I was despondent, and nearly gave up and gave in, but this movement for racial justice, native sovereignty, and environmental sanity felt all too important, and so I tried again a couple weeks later, this time spreading the word a bit wider.

At the second meeting, 10 folks came out – passionate, smart, and ready to roll up their sleeves and dive in. I was beside myself with joy.

The group of us has since jumped in, researching the divestment ordinances passed in numerous cities, and learning about the city of Gainesville’s public finances and its ties to private prisons and fossil fuel pipelines.

We’ve learned that Gainesville has approximately $20 million in city employee pension funds that *directly* fund pipelines like Dakota Access. We’ve learned that Gainesville’s $120 million in funds with SunTrust Bank are also tied to contamination-risking pipelines like Sabal Trail in our own backyard, as well as the private prison companies that run four prisons here in Florida, to which some Gainesville residents are sent.

Last week, we met with each City Commissioner individually, as well as the Mayor, to introduce the idea of an ordinance to divest Gainesville’s public money from the institutions that are funding the marginalization of Native peoples, the incarceration of Black and Brown communities for profit, and the destruction of our precious planet. I was nervous as heck, not knowing what to except, and went into our first meeting about to cry on the Commissioner’s desk!

Several deep breaths and many Commissioner meetings later, it became apparent that we actually have quite a bit of support from our city officials. We were even excitedly thanked by one Commissioner for bringing forth “solutions, not just problems.”

Wowzer. I was stunned.

Our next step is to prepare a policy proposal that will be brought before the City Commission for public comment. When that happens, we will spread the word far and wide. We’ll need everyone and their uncle’s dog there to cheer the ordinance on and to speak up about what divestment from fossil fuels and private prisons means to them.

If you’re in the Gainesville, Florida area, we welcome you to join us. Our next meeting is this coming Saturday.

In the meantime, may we dare to dream, dare to speak up, dare to gather our sisters and brothers (and when they don’t come the first time, gather them again!)

May we dare to remember that another world is possible – one founded upon love and respect for our planet, for our Native peoples, and our sisters and brothers of color.

May we dare to create this world beginning in our own backyard, and on the steps of our own City Hall.

For more information go to Divest Gainesville here

by Marina Smerling

Last Real Indians