You faced down attack dogs, blizzards and rubber bullets. If we do not fight we will not win. Let’s build on this, make sure other cities move to divest from Wells Fargo.
~ Kshama Sawant, Seattle Council Woman
On Wednesday morning, February 1st, representatives from a host of environmental groups including 350.org, Earth Ministries, and indigenous sisters and brothers from both regional and national tribes opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on treaty lands in N. Dakota, filled the chambers of the city council’s meeting space to testify and to encourage the city to fully divest from Wells Fargo Bank. Following testimony, members of the council voted unanimously to recommend to the full Council next week that the city divest its financial holdings with Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo has been the city’s bank for operations since 1999, and manages more than $3 billion of the city’s operating account.
This feels like progress, EVEN in the face of other very discouraging news of yesterday that the Army Corp of Engineers has been ordered by the new administration to allow construction of the DAPL to proceed without the environmental impact studies being completed. A portion of this pipeline is slated to tunnel under the Missouri River in N. Dakota, a primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The Seattle Times reports that 76 protestors were arrested yesterday. A new camp set up in protest of the pipeline was cleared by nightfall, with police “dropping off teepees set up in the camp,” at the Sioux Tribe’s reservation.
On Wednesday afternoon, February 1st, I went to a local credit union a couple miles from my house, to initiate the process of opening up a new account. I’ve been aiming in this direction for a while, dragging my feet in anticipation of all the small implicit changes that would be involved in changing banking institutions. But, yesterday was the day!!
The credit union I chose is not as conveniently located to our home as our current bank, but this is a small price to be paid. We’ve been banking at a large corporate bank for the last 15 years, but in good conscience, we can’t continue. Removing our funds from the corporate bank and establishing a connection with a local credit union, we aim to say more visibly, “Yes,” to our neighborhood, to strengthen our connection to our community and to the small businesses right here. We also aim to say directly, “No!” to the big bank. We will no longer be a participant in supporting a financial institution that is financially supporting the company that’s building the Dakota Access Pipeline.
As a part of the new account application process, the assistant was prompted to ask the reason for our change. When I looked at the choices on the computer screen, there was no RESISTANCE choice available. I looked her in the eye and commented in a calm voice, “The reason we’re moving here is that we can’t continue to support a big banking institution involved in the financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline.” She checked the box, “Community involvement,” as I instructed. She added, “We can also make a note at the bottom of your application with more detail about your reason.” I felt self-conscience sitting there, trying to find just the right words I wanted her to type in. I took a small piece of paper in front of me and wrote the first words that came, “No more to BIG Banks!” It was heartfelt.
In the box at the bottom of the application, she entered as I instructed, “No! to BIG banks!” It was a presence moment between me, the assistant and my Maker. My heart felt earnest, true.
Right next step. We continue to practice.