Students for Black and Palestinian Liberation call for WU to cut ties with Boeing at rally on Ackert Walkway

and | Staff Reporter and Managing Editor
A crowd of people stand behind a chain-link fence on a walkway suspended in the air. A white sign with "divest from bloody Boeing" written in red with blood drops on the letters is held behind the fence.Courtesy of Brian Perniciaro

Protestors hold up a sign reading “Divest from Bloody Boeing” over the Ackert Walkway

Around 60 students gathered on the Ackert Walkway overpass Wednesday afternoon in a “space occupation” protesting Washington University’s ties to Boeing.

The action, organized by Students for Black and Palestinian Liberation (BPL), was part of the national #DivestFromDeath weeklong campaign. The campaign, which involves protests on multiple college campuses, was organized by We Are Dissenters, a national group that is seeking an end to militarism.

Students chanted “We demand divestment” and hung signs reading “Divest from Bloody Boeing” and “Your Tuition is Blood Money” from the walkway.

“All across the country, students are showing up for their campuses to protest all connections to war profiteers like Boeing, like Lockheed Martin, like Raytheon,” BPL organizer junior Brianna Chandler said. “This is our contribution to that coalition.”

Boeing is the world’s second largest military contractor, with $26.9 billion in revenue from arms and military services in 2018. Students pointed to the University’s ties to the company, as Boeing’s chief engineer and executive vice president for test and technology, Gregory Hyslop, is a member of the Board of Trustees, serves on the Engineering National Council for the McKelvey School of Engineering and was the May 2017 Engineering Commencement speaker. Washington University is also home to the Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation at the Olin Business School. 

Speakers at the protest aimed to highlight how militaries use Boeing’s weapons to perpetuate violence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Yemen, the Kashmir region and other locations around the world. 

“Something has got to give,” senior Christina Lee said in a speech at the protest. “We have got to take a stand against the military-industrial complex. We must refuse to let the endowment of our university finance the industries that are killing the people and the planet.”

An Instagram post promoting the event highlighted that bombs the Israeli military dropped on the Gaza Strip in May can be directly linked back to Boeing’s factory in St. Charles, Missouri, just 30 miles from campus. In August of 2018, protestors blocked the entrance to the St. Charles factory, objecting to the company’s connections with the war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Wednesday’s protest was not the first time in recent years that students have called on the University to sever ties with a major company. In the spring of 2014, dozens of students participated in a 16-day sit-in outside Brookings Hall to demand the removal of Peabody Coal CEO Greg Boyce from the University’s Board of Trustees, and seven protestors were arrested at a board meeting. Boyce remained on the board until he resigned in the fall of 2016.

Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications Julie Flory declined to comment. 

According to Chandler, BPL is determined to pressure the University to cut ties with Boeing for as long as it takes.

“This is our way of saying it’s not just about what happens on campus, we have to be a community in solidarity with people outside of WashU and so this is us committing to that,” she said.

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