Iowa City and Cedar Rapids NoDAPL activists hold banks accountable

Participants in the Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 action sign letters to executives of Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, asking them to pull out their investments in companies funding the pipeline. -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Participants in the Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 action sign letters to executives of Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, asking them to pull out their investments in companies funding the pipeline. — photo by Eleanore Taft

About 30 people gathered at Wells Fargo Bank and U.S. Bank in downtown Iowa City Wednesday to urge them to stop funding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Another action today at the downtown Cedar Rapids Wells Fargo Bank drew roughly 25 people.

Activists handed out leaflets and spoke to bank customers and passersby in Iowa City on Wednesday, encouraging them close their accounts until Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank agree to withdraw their financial support for the pipeline. Participants signed letters to the banks’ CEOs, then attempted to occupy the banks’ lobbies and read the letters aloud.

Wells Fargo allowed the group to complete the planned action, but U.S. Bank asked them to leave. U.S. Bank Assistant Manager Andy O’Neill said the bank would not allow a protest on its private property. The group’s leaders were instead invited into Manager Sandy Steele’s office to privately read her the letter, which she offered to personally send to CEO Richard Davis.

During the protest outside U.S. Bank, an unidentified passerby shouted “We’re gonna continue shooting you people if you’re that fucking dumb,” then walked away.

The event was organized by the Mississippi Stand Solidarity Network, including many members of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future. Mississippi Stand — originally a camp in Lee County, Iowa at the site where the pipeline passes under the Mississippi River — was begun by activist Jessica Reznicek, a native of Perry, Iowa. Since that portion of the pipeline was completed, the group has mobilized and taken part in actions throughout the state.

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters enter Wells Fargo in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 to occupy the bank lobby and read the letter addressed to the Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan. -- photo by Eleanore Taft
Dakota Access Pipeline protesters enter Wells Fargo in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 to occupy the bank lobby and read the letter addressed to the Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan. — photo by Eleanore Taft

Organizer Aaron Silander, a member of both the solidarity network and 100 Grannies, criticized law enforcement actions at the North Dakota protest site, Standing Rock. In November, Police doused protesters with water cannons during freezing conditions, sending some to the hospital with hypothermia. Reports have also shown police used other munitions, including teargas grenades that have been banned by some other law enforcement agencies.

“We’re very, very distressed about the project itself because of the dangers to the environment, but extremely upset and distressed about the militarization of the police force in North Dakota and the human rights abuses there,” Silander said.

Seventeen financial institutions have invested in the pipeline including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. These investments and loans have allowed the $3.7 billion project to continue despite expensive delays.

President-elect Donald Trump is also an investor in Energy Transfer Partners, the parent corporation of Dakota Access LLC, and Phillips 66, which has a one-quarter share in Dakota Access. Trump has faced pressure to put his investments into a blind trust managed by a trustee with whom he would have no contact, to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Trump said his children will manage the trust instead.

Dawn Jones of Wellman, Iowa said she was hopeful that the Trump administration will inspire activists to band together and fight.

“It might encourage us to get out in the street. When the Republicans were in power, there was a significant peace movement. As soon as Obama was elected, everybody went home thinking they had accomplished the goal. So I’m hoping that this energizes people,” she said.

Dawn Jones had participated in a previous event asking banks to divest from the pipeline before taking part in Wednesday’s action.

“We already have more fuel than we can burn without causing climate catastrophe,” she said.

Standing Rock Evacuation

Thousands are camped at Standing Rock in North Dakota to try and stop construction at the Missouri River and Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock reservation. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has called for a mandatory evacuation of the camp on Dec. 5. Individuals who continue to bring supplies to the camp may face $1,000 fines.

Activists Wesley Clark and Michael Wood Jr., who is a Marine Corps veteran, have organized 2,000 U.S. military veterans to head to the camp next week to position themselves between the protesters and law enforcement. So many veterans signed up that an additional trip is being planned, perhaps as soon as the second week of December, according to a gofundme page that Clark and Wood created to raise money for food, transportation and supplies.

NoDAPL activists in Iowa City hand out flyers and talk with passersby about why they are encouraging people to close their accounts with banks funding the pipeline on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. -- photo by Eleanore Taft
NoDAPL activists in Iowa City hand out flyers and talk with passersby about why they are encouraging people to close their accounts with banks funding the pipeline on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. — photo by Eleanore Taft

Robert Frazier, who helped organize Wednesday’s bank action in Iowa City and attended the Cedar Rapids action today, has been arrested three times for trespassing in civil disobedience against the pipeline and is headed to Standing Rock this weekend. He said he doesn’t expect a forced evacuation until the veterans leave the site.

What’s been going on in Iowa?

The pipeline is nearly finished in Iowa, but there have been several delays in the completion of the portion under the Des Moines River in Boone County, following multiple direct actions and arrests. Activists have expressed concerns that a leak there would compromise hundreds of thousands of people’s drinking water, including the city of Des Moines.

Two were arrested at the Boone County site Tuesday for chaining themselves to equipment, stopping construction for two hours. On Nov. 10, three people wedged themselves inside the pre-assembled 30” pipe at this site for more than 12 hours before police tied them with ropes, dragged them out and arrested them.

Reznicek, of Perry, and Travis O’Brennan, of Maine, were arrested Wednesday for refusing to leave a state office conference room, demanding a meeting with Geri Huser, head of the Iowa Utilities Board. The board’s three members, appointed by the governor, approved the pipeline’s construction in Iowa. Reznicek and O’Brennan had been on a hunger strike for 10 days outside the board’s offices.

Getting Involved

Mary Beth Versgrove, who has been involved since the primary hearings on the pipeline were held in February 2015 and was arrested during a direct action, said that those interested in helping can join the Mississippi Stand Solidarity Network, which meets in Iowa City.

A fundraiser for Standing Rock featuring native hip hop artists Tall Paul and Bazille Dx will be held at Blue Moose in Iowa City from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.

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