Climate activists shut down Chase Bank branches in Seattle; arrests made

Roxanne White, right, a member of the Yakama Nation, sings during a protest inside a Chase bank branch Monday, May 8, 2017, in Seattle. Climate activists opposed to oil pipeline projects demonstrated at several JPMorgan Chase bank locations in Seattle on Monday, calling on the bank not to do business with TransCanada, the company pushing for the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Thirteen Chase bank branches in Seattle saw business disrupted by activists in an effort to stop loans to tar-sands oil-pipeline projects. Police report they have made arrests.

Climate activists disrupted business at 13 branches of JPMorgan Chase bank in Seattle on Monday in an effort to stop loans to tar-sands oil-pipeline projects.

By late afternoon police had made 26 arrests of demonstrators, including activists who locked themselves together and refused to leave two bank branches, said Emily Johnston, communications manager for 350 Seattle, a nonprofit climate-action group that helped organized the demonstrations.

The actions were led in part by Indian activists who took part in the Standing Rock encampment demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Monday’s actions were intended to move the opposition to fossil-fuel development to the next battleground: financing of new tar-sands pipelines, including the Keystone and Trans Mountain projects.

“What we really have to do is shine a really bright light on how devastating these projects are,” Johnston said. Activists plan to keep the pressure on banks needed to finance the projects, she said. “If we can make these projects as politically toxic as they are for the environment, maybe they will get cold feet.”

At the Chase bank branch on Second Avenue, where activists began their disruption just after noon, Seattle police officers patiently stood by for hours but made no move to arrest demonstrators in the bank who were performing a Native American round dance, circling the shuttered teller windows, singing and drumming.

The bank became an impromptu longhouse of sorts as Native American leaders told stories and shared teaching, prayers and songs for demonstrators and their allies.

Rachel Heaton, a Muckleshoot tribal member, burned a sage bundle at a shuttered teller window, a medicinal cleansing.

Chase is just one of many major banks expected to be approached by pipeline developers to loan money for their projects. Activists say they want to “name and shame” lenders that invest in pipeline construction and convince prospective lenders it’s not worth the public-relations hit to bankroll tar-sands projects.

Each action was a little different. In Fremont, a karaoke dance party was underway, while the Second Avenue branch was given over to song and prayer.

As the afternoon wore on, activists at the Second Avenue branch ordered cheese pizza. The sidewalk outside was given over to lively street theater as activists unfurled a tarp as a mock oil spill and encircled it wearing plastic suits reminiscent of hazmat work. They chanted “Chase Bank is toxic, don’t fund the KXL!” as other activists displayed a black inflatable “pipeline” that stretched for half a block.

In November 2016, the government of Canada approved Kinder Morgan Canada’s plan to expand the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline system — between Edmonton, Alberta, and Burnaby, British Columbia. The $7.4 billion pipeline twins an existing line and is desired by oil producers to get crude to export markets.

The project is fiercely opposed by tribes on both sides of the border as well as environmental, conservation and wildlife interests in Washington state, which would see a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic through the Strait of Juan de Fuca if the pipeline is built.

Financing for construction of the pipeline is in the process of being arranged — and was one of the reasons for the timing of the protests in Seattle, said 350 Seattle activist Ahmed Gaya.

The Keystone XL pipeline, denied by President Barack Obama, was revived by President Donald Trump, who in March granted approval for the construction permit needed for the 1,200-mile, $8 billion tar-sands pipeline from Alberta to pipelines and refineries on the Texas gulf coast.

TransCanada of Calgary had been trying to win approval of the pipeline for nearly 10 years.

Now opposition to both pipelines switches to the courts, where multiple lawsuits have been filed, and to the streets. Demonstrations such as those Monday in Seattle are just the beginning, activists vowed.

“All you other banks in Seattle, you are next,” said Ray Kingfisher, a Northern Cheyenne tribal elder who helped lead the action at Chase’s Second Avenue branch. “This is just a start.”

350 Seattle submitted a letter with its demand to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, that the bank publicly state it will not grant any loan for any new tar-sands oil project.

The activists had not heard back from the bank by Monday afternoon, Gaya said.

Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot, regional spokeswoman for Chase, did not return requests for comment.

[“Source-seattletimes”]