By ANDRES RODRIGUEZ
Leaders of Native American organizations and activists urged Mayor Bill De Blasio and CityComptroller Scott Stringer to divest from Wells Fargo, because of their funding of the DakotaAccess Pipeline (DAPL), on the steps of City Hall this Thursday afternoon.
Betty Lyons, president of the American Indian Law Alliance (AILA) and a leader of the Onondaga Nation, was the first speaker in calling for De Blasio and Stringer to withdraw any business from Wells Fargo, specifically the $165 billion pension fund the city holds in the nation’s third largest bank.
Lyons said DAPL “not only violates constitutional law but international law,” citing the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 and UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Each speaker that followed Lyons recited a brief prayer in a native language before they denounced the continuation of DAPL construction.
“What’s going on in the Dakotas is corporate terrorism and the onset of American fascism,” said Chief Dwaine Perry of the Ramapough Lenape Nation.
Perry spoke briefly of the social and environmental ramifications of the pipeline and called for the mayor and comptroller to form a coalition with other cities who are in opposition of DAPL and cutting ties with Wells Fargo, such as Seattle, whose City Council unanimously voted to end their relationship with the bank on Feb. 7.
Pressure has been on Wells Fargo as of late. De Blasio sent a letter to Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan on Feb. 17 in which he expresses concern over the bank’s involvement in the controversial project. De Blasio claimed the pipeline would violate “human and tribal rights of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.”
The relationship with Wells Fargo has already been strained due to Wells Fargo’s phony accounts scandal that cost the New York City pension fund shareholders $41 million in 2016. Both De Blasio and Stringer threatened to withdraw from any business if the shareholders were not reimbursed. Wells Fargo ensured that it would not repeat the fraudulent practice.
Several speakers took the time to criticize President Trump. Rick Chavallo, an educator of the Kumyaay tribe, called President Trump’s actions “greedy and self-serving.”
Cedric Goodhouse, of the Lakota Tribe, recalled his experience while protesting at Standing Rock. “Dog bites, mace, water cannons, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, that’s real stuff.”
On Jan. 24, President Trump signed an executive order advancing approval of both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. A few hours later, thousands of protesters hit the streets of Manhattan, marching towards Trump Tower in Midtown