Monday morning, just minutes before the bank opened, 3 women chained themselves to the door of TD Bank in downtown Philadelphia. The protesters were locked together and blocked the entrance to the bank in a direct action against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Two additional women stood alongside them and held a banner that read “TD Divest Your Money Now From DAPL.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 3.8 billion, 1,172 mile long project that, if completed will carry fracked oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline will cross Standing Rock Sioux Tribal land and under the Missouri River, as well as eight other major waterways. If leaked, it could threaten the tribe’s major source of drinking water and millions of others downstream, and destroy sacred land that is intimately connected to the Sioux tribe’s identity.
The protest at the bank occurred the morning after police used lethal and excessive force against the demonstrators at Standing Rock, North Dakota—who prefer to be called Water Protectors. Over the past few months, the Water Protectors have occupied the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to prevent its construction. As the months have passed, the site has become increasingly militarized.
On Sunday night, tensions boiled over and reports surfaced that the police used water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper bombs in below freezing temperatures on over 400 people protecting the land from the DAPL, injuring over 150 people.
As reports came in over Twitter and Facebook of widespread injuries— with news of a 13-year-old hit in the face and an elder going into cardiac arrest—the women felt even more determined to act. They told BUST that the risks they were about to take were minimal in comparison to what the people in North Dakota were sacrificing. They felt it was imperative to stand with indigenous rights and protect the environment.
Jessica Rohan, one of the protesters, said in a press release from Greenpeace, “We are responding to the call for direct action made by indigenous women to defend Native sovereignty and water. In the past 24 hours, the non-violent actions of Water Protectors have been met with tear gas, concussion grenades, and water cannons. We’re here to tell TD Bank that destroying indigenous land and poisoning the water of thousands of people is bad for business.”
TD Bank is of one of the banks financing a $2.5 billion loan to the DAPL. Citibank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, and Mizuho Bank are three other investors, according to Democracy Now. The largest bank in Norway, DMB, was also an investor, but has since sold off its assets because “concerns raised by Native American tribes against the construction were not addressed.”
If TD Bank withdrew its assets as well, the project could dry up, and activists believe it will send a message that their business, which prides itself on supporting responsible energy development, is not going to fund a project that could destroy the environment and negatively impact indigenous people.
There has been a call to action by indigenous women to put pressure on Energy Transfer Partners (the parent company of the Dakota Access Pipeline), where it will hurt most: their investors.
Abigail Meinen, another participant, said in the release. “Indigenous women have led the fight against this pipeline from the beginning. They are the guardians of the water, the life-giving force of the Earth. Today, as a group of women, we have come together in solidarity with our indigenous sisters, mothers, and elders, and say that we will fight with you.”
The protestors felt they wanted to use their privilege as white women to make a stance with indigenous women, who have been on the front line from day one, and who have sacrificed such a tremendous amount in order to prevent DAPL.
On a windy Monday morning, the women sat on the concrete chained to the bank door, on a busy Philadelphia street corner. They shut down the bank for an hour and drew a crowd of more than 20 people. They sang, “I went down to the river to pray.” The police asked the protesters, to leave, but the women did not move, and continued to sing, this time “I hear the voice of my grand-daughter, say TD Divest Now .”
TD Bank told BUST they “respect the rights of people to voice their opinions in peaceful protest.” They are also encouraging ETP (Energy Transfer Project) to “engage in constructive dialogue and work towards a resolution with stakeholders, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”
The Army Corps of Engineers, which is the federal agency that oversees the project, recently released a statement that more analysis and conversation with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation is needed in order to move forward with the pipeline. ETP fired back and said they are suing the government in order to complete DAPL.
6 women were arrested Monday morning, including the 3 women chained to the bank, 2 women holding the sign, and a sixth woman who was involved. This is part of a broader solidarity movement that has been occurring all over the country. A week of action has been called to protest the banks involved starting on November 25th to Dec 1st to make a stance against DAPL.
Photos of Bank Protest By Cayley Dittmer
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