Veiled protesters carried pictures of the 12 victims shot to death in 2012 in a Colorado movie theater. | DONNA ACETO
LGBT activists affiliated with Gays Against Guns (GAG) took their message to the headquarters of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, to protest its holdings in two gun manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger.
The August 15 protest, that drew dozens to the BlackRock offices on East 52nd Street, focused on the role guns produced by those two manufacturers played in the 2012 massacre at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in which 12 people were killed and another 70 were wounded. Twelve protesters, dressed in white veils with each holding a picture of one of the fatally wounded Aurora victims, occupied the lobby of the building for about a quarter of an hour before leaving at the request of security.
Other protesters, carrying signs that read, “Black Rock #Drop the Gun $tock$,” staged a die-in while the veiled demonstrators stood vigil, and outside protesters lay down in chalk outlines of shooting victims.
GAG demonstrators demanded that BlackRock divest its firearms stocks. | DONNA ACETO
According to BlackRock’s most recent financial disclosure, its funds hold more than $8 million in Smith & Wesson stock and more than $7 million in Sturm, Ruger stock — investments it categorizes as “leisure products.”
According to GAG member Ken Kidd, the group notified BlackRock of its demands that it divest its gun-maker stocks last week, but has heard nothing back, “just excuses in the press.”
Some protesters lay down in the lobby of BlackRock’s headquarters on 52nd Street. | DONNA ACETO
In public statements to the media, BlackRock asserted that the index funds it offers are put together using a portfolio created by a “third party,” and the composition cannot be changed. It also noted that it offers separate financial vehicles for investors who do not want to own stock in firearms, alcohol, or tobacco companies.
Chalk outlines representing the Aurora, Colorado, shooting victims. | DONNA ACETO
Challenging what it characterizes as BlackRock’s assertion that “their hands are tied,” GAG is critical of the asset manager’s statements that its gun manufacturer investments “contributed meaningfully” to its fund’s performance and that “Firearms manufacturers benefited from strong demand in the US.”
The roughly $16 million it owns in firearms dealers represents a miniscule amount of BlackRock’s $4.9 trillion dollars under management.
In its public statements, BlackRock emphasized its “history of supporting the LGBT community” and condemned “senseless acts of violence” such as the gun siege of an Orlando LGBT club that killed 49 in June.
GAG formed in the wake of that tragedy. The group pledged to continue its pressure on companies with ties to the gun industry in “the weeks and months ahead, especially those that court the LGBTQ community.”
“It’s us or them,” said John Grauwiler, a GAG founder. “End your relationship with the death business or the LGBTQ community ends its relationship with you.”
Veiled protesters outside BlackRock's headquarters. | DONNA ACETO