With the Trump administration making clear its intent to push forward the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) regardless of widespread opposition, campaigners are ramping up their call for the project's financial backers to pull their support.
"If money rules the day then we will bring compassion to our capital by divesting."
—Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota People's Law Project
A coalition of groups supporting the defunding campaign announced Friday that more than 700,000 people have signed onto petitions demanding DAPL-financing banks divest from the project. That number "includes individuals who collectively report having over $2.3 billion invested in these banks through checking, mortgage, and credit card accounts, which they are ready to divest if the banks continue financing DAPL," according to a statement from organizers. Already, the divestment effort has led to the removal of $55 million and counting from more than a dozen banks.
"Many people are, rightfully, afraid that [President Donald Trump's] executive support now means that the pipelines are full steam ahead," said Melanie Yazzie, co-founder of The Red Nation, an activist coalition dedicated to the liberation of Native people from capitalism and colonialism. She views divestment as obstruction—the good kind—something akin to water protectors locking down on construction equipment and as a continuation of the widespread resistance that has united under the cry of #NoDAPL.
"The investors and financiers will not move forward if the projects are deemed financially unfavorable," Yazzie said. "We must continue to deny settlers their desired profits, profits they reap from colonizing our non-human relatives—the land and water."
That is the hope of a growing cohort of tribal leaders, activists, researchers, and strategists who have come to see divestment, which is catching on all across Indian Country, as a winning tactic in a wider strategy of non-cooperation.
"Indigenous peoples across the Americas, from Standing Rock to the Amazon, have for years been standing up against the destructive, racist practices of the fossil fuel industry," Leila Salazar López, executive director of Amazon Watch, said Friday. "The number of people withdrawing their money from the banks supporting the Dakota Access pipeline is a clear signal to those banks that destructive fossil fuel projects are a bad financial, social, and environmental investment."
The 17 banks directly funding the construction of the DAPL are: Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, BayernLB, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Crédit Agricole, DNB ASA, ICBC, ING, Intesa Sanpaolo, Mizuho Bank, Natixis, SMBC, Société Générale, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo.
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Protests at branch locations took place all week around the country and the world.
And there's evidence that the campaign is having an effect.
International finance tracking organization BankTrack reported Thursday that Dutch bank ABN AMRO—which has not directly contributed to DAPL construction but had provided a total of $45 million in credit to parent company Energy Transfer Equity (ETE)—announced it would end its financing for ETE if the pipeline is pursued without the consent of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, or if further violence is used against protesters.
"The Dakota Access pipeline is becoming a litmus test for all banks involved on how they let environmental, social, and human impacts weigh in when considering finance for a particular project," said BankTrack direcor Johan Frijns.
In separate but related news, Seattle's Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee this week voted to divest $3 billion from Wells Fargo over its support for DAPL. A final vote from the full council is coming Monday.
"It's inspiring to see the power of global currency being leveraged in the frontline movement at Standing Rock," added Chase Iron Eyes, lead attorney for the Lakota People's Law Project, who was arrested protesting the pipeline just this week.
"Separate fights—defending clean drinking water, upholding constitutional freedoms, creating a new energy economy—are becoming one as people recognize and respond to the problem of banks using their money to finance human rights violations and brutality," he said. "If money rules the day then we will bring compassion to our capital by divesting."
The Standing Rock Sioux and its allies are also planning a Native Nations March on Washington for Friday, March 10.