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Non-violent direct action in Amherst Center against big banks’ pipeline funding

Hayley Johnson/Collegian

The below-freezing temperatures early Saturday morning didn’t put a stop to the non-violent direct action in front of the Bank of America in Amherst. Three local residents locked themselves to large barrels to take a stand against funders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and Trans-Pecos Pipeline.

Pioneer Valley residents, Marc Osten, Adrie Lester and Steven Botkin sat between four 55-gallon drums with fake oil running down their faces, surrounded by caution tape. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, TD Bank and Citibank logos were displayed on each of the drums.

Similar to the water ceremony at TD Bank in Amherst on Dec. 5, 2016, this guerilla street theater encouraged citizens to take their money out of big banks and set up accounts in small, local banks.

Lester, a New Salem resident said, “We have tables set up today that give people really clear, easy instructions about which banks they can move their money to, how to do that, letters that are already typed up that they can just sign their names to.”

“There are people right now in South Dakota, Florida, West Texas, around the country who are really trying to resist this continued session with fossil fuels and the absolute insane perpetuation of a war against native peoples that’s been going on for more than 200 years in this country,” Osten, an Amherst resident said. “So we’re here to really try to communicate to people that these are issues that matter to them too.”

Georganne Greene, a minster from Pelham and police and emergency liaison for the action said, “The police were here when we got here, they were very cooperative in letting us set up…Our purpose is education, not to be disrespectful in any way… I’m so proud to be part of this, to have a chance to give back to this Earth that’s given so much to us.”

The protest did not attract a large crowd, but Osten, the main organizer of the action, is satisfied with the effects he believes it will have on the community.

“There were 1,300 shares…off of our live feed. And I know that at least a dozen of those shares were by major media outlets…I would guess that we are in the hundreds of people who are going to divest just based on this action, if we could count I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers are like that,” he said.

Giovana Castro, a sophomore at UMass majoring in social thought and political economy stood at a table to educate people on the importance of divesting from big banks.

She explained that her role was the education part of “educate, agitate, organize,” an idea that has been around for over a century.

“I’m here because this nation was founded on a genocide of indigenous people, and the continuous colonization of indigenous people and indigenous lands…This pipeline is another instance in which we’re recolonizing indigenous land, sacred indigenous land…We want people to know why is this important and why are we here,” said Castro.

Police monitored the action, but did not ask the protesters to stop or leave at any point.

The action came to an end between 11:30 a.m. and noon, a decision made by the organizers.

Osten said, “We basically had a discussion with [the police] and we decided that we felt as if we had accomplished our mission for the day…it was a negotiation and also an acceptance that there are a lot of resources needed today to help keep students in the area safe and that’s a serious thing, and our objective is not to have people be unsafe, but the exact opposite.”

“There will be actions in Northampton…we will not go away…this is not a campaign that is going away,” said Osten.

A goal moving forward for these local citizen activists is to find a way for the town of Amherst to divest from TD Bank and Bank of America.

Hayley Johnson can be reached at hkjohnson@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @hayleyk_johnson.

 

 

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