Wet’suwet’en solidarity in Iowa

There will be a gathering in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en peoples this Wednesday, December 22, at 4:00 PM. at the Chase Bank, 3621 Merle Hay Rd, Des Moines, IA 50310.

Chase is one of the major institutions funding fossil fuel projects, including the Coastal GasLink pipeline being built on Wet’suwet’en lands. Pressuring financial institutions to divest funds from fossil fuel projects has been a tactic for many years. Gatherings like this can encourage the bank to consider divesting from fossil fuel projects. They can also provide a public way for individuals to divest their funds from these banks.

Chase Bank, 3621 Merle Hay Rd, Des Moines

My first experience with divestment occurred in Indianapolis in 2016, where we targeted both Chase and PNC, who were funding the Dakota Access pipeline. Below are some photos from the day we went to those banks, where those who had accounts there closed them.

I had an account at Chase but had not set up an account at another bank, so I couldn’t withdraw my funds that day. The following is what happened when I was ready to close my Chase account.

My own experience in closing my Chase account

In Indianapolis we had been working on defunding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) for several months. On November 15, 2016, a crowd of about two hundred of us marched through downtown Indianapolis with our signs about defunding the pipeline. We stopped in front of two of the banks involved with funding the pipeline, Chase, and PNC. The crowd stood in silence as people went in to close their accounts. That day the group withdrew $110,000 dollars.

My own effort to close my account was more difficult than I thought it would be. 

First, I had trouble getting the forms from the University to change my paycheck to direct deposit at a different bank. It took time to set up paying bills. I also realized that I had initially chosen Chase bank because they had the most ATM locations. This was important because I don’t own a car. There can be inconveniences from defunding.

I went to the Circle in the center of downtown Indianapolis where the Chase Tower dominates the Indianapolis skyline. I spent about an hour walking around the Circle with my sign, looking to see if anyone else had shown up from my local group. It is a little nerve wracking to be walking around by yourself like that, but no one looks directly at you or engages you.

I was also hoping to get a photo of the sign in front of Chase bank (this was requested as part of the national campaign).  When I walked past Bridget, who sits on the Circle every day, crocheting, she asked me what the sign said, and we had a conversation about the importance of protecting our environment.   She graciously took several photos for me, including the one above.

I had finally worked up the courage to enter the Chase Bank Tower to close my account.  I had no idea what the reaction to entering with my sign would be. I just placed it next to my chair as I waited.  The bank officer greeted me with a smile and said someone would be with me shortly. He came back after about ten minutes to say he appreciated my patience—it was a busy time.

Mostly people coming into the bank ignored me, but there were a few glances in my direction. You can tell when you’re making people uncomfortable. I’ve had a lot of practice with that.

When I was shown into the banker’s office, she saw my sign, smiled, put her hands together, bowed to me, and said, “we are on the same page with this.” She put her finger to her lips with a smile indicating she shouldn’t be saying that. She was very pleasant and helpful. When I left, she took my hand in both of hers.

As I was walking past the lobby officer when I left, I reached out my hand, which he took in both of his hands, giving me a big smile and a little bow as well. I told him I appreciated his patience with my freedom of speech, and he smiled and said, “Of course.”

My little bit was added to the total amount of money divested so far: $72,944,005.39 dollars according to defunddapl.org.

I felt goodwill between me and those in the bank to such an extent that I returned later in the week to drop off copies of the blog article I had written describing how well they had treated me and the whole defunding process. When the banker I had dealt with previously glanced up, she gave me a big smile and waved me in. She got up and again took my hand in hers and asked what she could do for me. She told me she and her husband had talked about our visit and the pipeline.

During meeting for business in February at North Meadow Circle of Friends (Quaker), the meeting approved closing its Chase Bank account in solidarity with the #noDAPL movement.   

This is how our stories spread.

I know I sometimes repeat parts of stories like this from my past. I’ve heard we need to return to and retell our stories. Stories are important to affect change. Often in the retelling I learn something new from today’s perspective.

6 thoughts on “Wet’suwet’en solidarity in Iowa

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