A coalition of activists will gather at the federal building in Seattle Thursday afternoon to demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline. They’re calling on the public to join them in defunding the project by closing accounts at Wells Fargo Bank.
The protestors say they’ll start the action across the street from the federal building at the Wells Fargo Center, where a large number of them will close their accounts and lodge complaints. That will be followed by speeches, singing and drumming from Native American activists and leaders.
“We live in a capitalist society and money talks, unfortunately," said Matt Remle, a local educator and a member of the Lakota tribe near Standing Rock.
"But if you have enough individuals, enough jurisdictions saying, 'We don’t want out money being used to fund projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline,' then hopefully they’ll rethink and reinvest their money in ways that actually benefit communities.”
At the rally, they’ll also call on the city of Seattle to pass legislation introduced last month, to cut its ties with Wells Fargo, which manages about $3 billion in operating funds and payroll for the city.
The bank says it is financing less than 5 percent of the project, and hopes all parties can work together to reach a peaceful resolution, and that it wants to continue delivering outstanding service to Seattle.
The pipeline has been stalled since the Army Corps of Engineers denied a key permit in early December. The activists say their divestment campaign has pulled more than $43 million from the project so far.
Rachel Heaton is a Muckleshoot tribal member who says she’s made three trips to Standing Rock to join the protests there. She says divesting from the backers of the pipeline, is a way to take back some power.
She wants people to move their money from all the big lenders — including US Bank, Bank of America and Chase — to smaller local banks and credit unions.
“You know every time we pay a bank fee, an overdraft fee, a checking account fee, an ATM fee, our money is helping support these oil projects,” she said, adding that she also helped organize a big protest rally in Tacoma together with the Puyallup tribe, to raise awareness for a wide range of fossil fuel projects that threaten tribal treaty rights locally.
“At the end of the day this is a fight for mother earth, it’s a fight for future generations. And so divesting from these banks takes power away.”