TONIGHT AT 7: Durham to replace G4S with new security contractor

MEDIA ADVISORY:
Durham County To Choose New Security Contractor, Replacing G4S
Commissioners will settle year-long controversy at 7PM meeting tonight

After a year-long campaign by Jewish Voice for Peace – North Carolina and seven other community organizations, Durham County is set to replace its $1m annual private security contract.

Durham County holds a long-standing contract with G4S Secure Solutions, a UK-based private security company. In July 2014, following community outcry, Durham County moved G4S to a month-to-month contract. In November 2014, Durham County decided to end that contract and open up the security business to a Request for Proposals.

The RFP was hailed as a huge victory for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which has targeted G4S for boycott since a 2012 call from Palestinian political prisoners. However, G4S has continued to hold the month-to-month contract during the RFP process.

Tonight, Durham County staff will recommend that Virginia-based Old Dominion Security Services take over the contract. The Commissioners are expected to approve the new contract.

The County meeting will take place at 7PM in the Durham County Government Administrative Complex, 2nd floor, 200 East Main Street and is open to the public.

G4S signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Service in 2007, and its machinery and security officers have been deployed in checkpoints and illegal settlements in occupied Palestine. G4S has also been implicated in human rights abuses across the globe, including torture in prisons; in August 2014 the company was awarded a $118 million contract in Guantanamo Bay.

In 2014, an interfaith coalition of seven North Carolina organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, the Salaam-Shalom Committee of the Church of Reconciliation, and the Muslim American Public Affairs Council, wrote a letter to the Durham County Commissioners asking that they reconsider the contract with G4S. Over 200 County residents also added their photographs to a visual petition at durhamdropg4s.tumblr.com, and 5000 people across the world signed a petition thanking the Durham County Commissioners for ending the contract.

Media contact:
Sandra Korn
Jewish Voice for Peace – NC
732-796-8052
skornkob@gmail.com

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County to reconsider G4S on November 24th

We have received word from the County Commissioners that they will be hearing a report on G4S on Monday, November 24th. We are not sure of the time of the meeting yet.

Since June, we’ve been asking the county commissioners to drop their contract with G4S–and they’ve already responded by changing it to a month-to-month contract. Now we need to MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD so they stop giving our taxpayer money to a company that profits off imprisonment and torture of Palestinians.

Please call or e-mail the county commissioners TODAY to thank them for their support:

Michael D. Page, Chairman

(919) 949-4022
mpage@dconc.gov

Fred Foster, Jr., Commissioner
(919) 479-8305
ffoster@dconc.gov

Wendy Jacobs, Commissioner
(919) 401-3538
wjacobs@dconc.gov

Brenda A. Howerton, Commissioner
(919) 544-4160
bhowerton@dconc.gov

Ellen W. Reckhow, Commissioner
(919) 383-3883
ereckhow@gmail.com

Opinion piece in the News & Observer

Emily Schneider’s opinion piece in the Durham News section of the News and Observer this morning:

Emily Schneider: County security contract supports human-rights abuses

 

Over the past weeks, I’ve watched with horror as the death toll in Gaza rises to over 1,800 dead and nearly 10,000 wounded. Desperate to take action, I reached out to my local community and found an interfaith coalition of Jews, Muslims and Christians working together to end Durham County’s contract with G4S.

Group 4 Securicor (G4S) is a British-Danish security conglomerate responsible for human-rights abuses worldwide and has a net worth of $1 billion. In 2007, G4S signed a contract with the Prison Authority in Israel, where today it provides security for illegal settlements, checkpoints and prisons. Right here in Durham, G4S was given a $1 million contract to provide security services at Durham’s libraries and other county facilities. I had no idea that Durham residents’ tax dollars were funding human-rights abuses in Palestine, and like many others, I was outraged.

This issue is deeply personal for me, not only because I’m Jewish, but also because after growing up in the Triangle, I moved to Israel where I worked for three years at an organization that brought Israeli and Palestinian youth together to advocate for peace. During my time there, I saw my Palestinian friends dragged away to G4S prisons for nonviolently demonstrating in their own land. I waited for hours at checkpoints operated by G4S equipment, where Palestinians are forced to line up like cattle and are subjected to unbearable humiliation. As I stood at these checkpoints, my fellow Jews drove by on roads paved only for them, to reach their Jewish-only settlements, which again, are made possible by G4S.

These memories will be etched in my brain forever.

It was with these images in mind, that I joined Jewish Voice for Peace ( jewishvoiceforpeace.org) and their partners to stand before the Durham County Commission at a work session on Aug. 4 and demand an end to their contract with G4S.

The coalition is made up of a diverse array of local groups including Jewish Voice for Peace-NC, Jews for a Just Peace, Salaam-Shalom Committee of the Church of Reconciliation, Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East, and the Muslim American Public Affairs Council. In their statement of support, MAPAC writes:

“We are pleased to join our Jewish brothers and sisters in urging a local action that could help in moving a miscreant corporation toward global reform … Since profit, untempered by morality, is clearly the prime motive for G4S, we urge the County Commissioners to send a strong message to that company in the only language its management apparently understands.”

By cutting ties with G4S, Durham County would follow other major organizations such as the European Union, Gates Foundation, and Methodist Church in dissociating from G4S. In 1986, Durham City Council passed a resolution to not award contracts to any companies in business with the apartheid government of South Africa. I hope that Durham will continue to follow this inspiring legacy by yet again standing on the right side of history.

We are all searching for answers as to how to stop the violence. One answer is to take a stand against those companies that are profiting off of the bloodshed.

We have an incredible opportunity here in Durham to be a voice for hope, reason and a peaceful future.

The county commissioners meet Monday at 7 p.m. I invite you to join us, as we gather there to thank them for their careful consideration and ask for their moral leadership in discontinuing their contract with G4S.

Call your County Commissioners!

Want to take action? You can CALL or EMAIL the Durham County Commissioners! Please be polite and thank them for their support! 

 

Make sure to say:

  • As a Durham County resident, I don’t want my county to help fund human rights abuses in Israel/Palestine. Please drop the G4S contract!

Optional information to add:

  • G4S perpetrates human rights abuses throughout the world, notably in Israel and occupied Palestine. This includes torture in prisons, providing equipment to checkpoints that limit Palestinians’ freedom of movement, and providing inadequate housing to immigrants.
  • Durham County spends almost $1 million of taxpayer money each year supporting G4S.
  • I would rather see that money go to …….
    [you fill in here!]
  • In 1986, Durham City Council divested from companies doing business with the apartheid governments of South Africa and Namibia. Durham County should take the same stand against the apartheid situation in Israel/Palestine.
  • Guards at our county facilities should not be able to arrest people—such policing hurts our community.
  • If Durham County does choose another security contract, these security workers should be rehired.

 

Michael D. Page, Chairman

(919) 949-4022

mpage@dconc.gov

 

Fred Foster, Jr., Commissioner

(919) 479-8305

ffoster@dconc.gov

 

Wendy Jacobs, Commissioner

(919) 401-3538

wjacobs@dconc.gov

 

Brenda A. Howerton, Commissioner

(919) 544-4160

bhowerton@dconc.gov

 

Ellen W. Reckhow, Commissioner

(919) 383-3883

ereckhow@gmail.com

 

Wendell Davis, County Manager

(919) 560-0000

county_manager@dconc.gov

 

Motiryo Keambiroiro, Director of General Services

(919) 560-0430

generalservices@dconc.gov

Ikram’s Testimony

My name is Ikram, recently relocated from NY living in Durham – previously having worked at Burt’s Bees, and currently working in a Law Firm.  I represent the Muslim American Public Affairs Council also known as MAPAC, and perform various voluntary ground works in association with other Interfaith organizations.  MAPAC is an organization founded in 2002 representing American Muslims and to promote their interests and values at all levels of government while continuing to work with other faiths and groups on common issues.

In my greatest admairation on how companies like Burt’s Bees champion the cause of Earth Day and enjoins harmony between Corporate ETHICS and Nature, it is very painful to hear of Durham County’s association with company like G4S.  I come in front of you members of County Commissioners to read out a statement from MAPAC – a letter that is attached and placed in front of you.

Dear County Commissioners,

The Muslim American Public Affairs Council (MAPAC) Board of Trustees at its June 1st, 2014 meeting;;;; voted overwhelmingly in favor of endorsing the Jewish Voice for Peace opposition to renewing the County contract with G4S Secure Solutions.   Muslims share the same core values as the other Abrahamic Faiths, Judaism and Christianity, which are offended by the actions of G4S.   We are pleased to join with our Jewish brothers and sisters in urging a local action that could help in moving a miscreant corporation toward global reform.   G4S through its contractS in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East has demonstrated a willingness to violate human rights for PROFIT.  Since profit, untempered by morality, is clearly the prime motive for G4S, we urge the County Commissioners to send a strong message to that Company in the only language IT’S management apparently understands;; by terminating financial relations with G4S.   Durham County taxpayer monies should not be directed to such an organization.

Thank you very much,,, and God Bless you all.

 

Testimony from Tom

My name is Tom. And, as Beth said, I am here speaking on behalf of Jews for a Just Peace NC.

I want to look at this same issue through a different lens.

G4S’s involvement in the abuse of Palestinians is a very personal issue for me.  Not only because I am Jewish and not only because I feel that Israel’s ongoing occupation and violation of Palestinian rights is done in my name.  But also because I have seen up close and personal what Israel, with G4S’s help, is doing to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In 2002 my partner, Tema Okun, and I were part of a fact finding delegation in the West Bank.  We have since returned to the West Bank and Jerusalem 5 times, in part because of our close relationship with a Palestinian family – parents Yahia and Reema Abu Sharif, and their two children Samer and Luna.  We had also brought Samer to live with us in North Carolina for three separate summers.  Please know that this is a middle class and educated family, just like yours and mine, except they are Palestinians living under occupation.

Tema and I have traveled extensively in the West Bank and East Jerusalem with Samer and his family to visit their family members.  We have witnessed time and again the purposeful humiliation and frustration they are subjected to as they are inevitably forced to wait, often for long periods of time, at Israeli check points placed within Palestine with the sole purpose of controlling Palestinian daily life.  During our visits, Tema and I have met countless friends and relatives of the Abu Sharif family.  Every single Palestinian man we met has one thing in common – they have spent time in Israeli prisons, most without formal arrest or any meaningful due process and all unrelated to criminal or terrorist activity. So, when I learned that G4S is complicit in the abuses taking place at Israeli checkpoints on Palestinian land, Durham’s G4S contract becomes personal for me. And when I learn that G4S is complicit in the abuse of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons in Israel and Occupied Palestine, Durham’s G4S contract becomes personal for me.  And as Samer graduates college, and my worries intensify that he will face abuses at Israeli checkpoints or, god forbid, in prison, Durham’s G4S contract becomes personal for me.  

Commissioner Reckhow will recall that many years ago, when I was President of the Durham People’s Alliance, I was very involved with the County Commissioners during the struggle to merge and thus integrate Durham’s city and county schools.  I was very proud about how the Commission tackled that extremely difficult civil rights issue and ultimately made the right decision.  The G4S contract presents this Commission with another civil rights issue that, fortunately, is much easier to resolve than school merger and integration – we ask simply that the Commission join the Gates Foundation and numerous other entities and political bodies and end our contract with G4S.

Testimony from Beth

Good evening.  My name is Beth; I’m from Durham. I’m Jewish and I care deeply about this issue.  Tom Stern and I are here on behalf of Jews for a Just Peace North Carolina, which was founded in 2002, and is largely a triangle organization with over 20 of its members living in Durham.

Jews for a Just Peace North Carolina is committed to a just and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

G4S is responsible for a host of human rights violations in occupied Palestine and involving Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails.

In order to put this in context, I have to say a few words about Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.  You all know that in 1947 the United Nations partitioned what was historic Palestine, giving the Jewish people 56% of it.  In 1949 there was a war, and Palestinians were left with only 22% of the land: in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; the green line was established and became the commonly recognized border between Israelis and Palestinians.  In 1967 as part of another war, Israel occupied the Palestinian lands in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.  Since 1967 Israel has been building settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem and otherwise converting Palestinian land for Israeli use.  This 47-year-old occupation is illegal under international law and has been condemned by the United Nations, and world leaders, including former President Jimmy Carter and President Obama.

This occupation has created an oppressive living environment for Palestinians, in many cases giving them minimal control over their lives.  Over 10,000 Palestinian men, women, and children are held in Israeli prisons; few have had a legitimate trial.  A Palestinian can be held for 8 days before his or her arrest is brought in front of a military judge versus 1 day before an Israeli citizen is seen before a civilian court.   Physical abuse and torture are widespread.  G4S is in the middle of this, because they provide security in the prisons.

Israel has set up over 350 checkpoints (including permanent ones and mobile ones set up each month) through which 23,000 Palestinians must pass each day throughout the West Bank – which is Palestinian land – which has made it virtually impossible for many Palestinians to routinely get to work, visit families, for students to get to school or universities, and for people to get access to health care.  G4S is in the middle of that, because they provide security support and equipment at many of these check points.

G4S also provides security to Israeli businesses located in illegal West Bank settlements and to Israeli police stations in occupied Palestine.

G4S is profiting from the conflict.  This is not the company Durham should be keeping.  Thank you.