By ANDRES RODRIGUEZ
After spending the night camped out at the Wells Fargo branch between Grand and Broome streets in SoHo, protesters marched down Broadway on Thursday and made their way to the steps of City Hall. The disheveled group of indigenous people and their supporters found cover from the rain under the portico, their high spirits seemingly undamped by the gloomy weather.
A unified chant of Mni Wiconi, “Water is life” in Lakota, resounded on the neo-classical columns of the stately building as a coalition of indigenous organizations and allies once again called for Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Controller Scott Stringer to divest millions of dollars from Wells Fargo in response to its funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Rick Chavallo, of the American Indian Community House, made a speech about the history of corporate greed.
“They’re extracting again.,” he said. “They’re coming to our land, violating our treaties, violating our sovereignty, assaulting Mother Earth. For what ? For profit, for greed, for money. It’s always about that.”
Robert Barrero of the International Indian Treaty Council criticized de Blasio and Stringer. “Are you [de Blasio and Stringer] a Trump supporter?” he said, likening de Blasio’s and Stinger’s alleged inaction to the president’s rollback on environmental legislation and destruction of environmental protections and policies.
Both de Blasio and Stringer have denounced the construction of the pipeline. De Blasio released a letter on Feb 17 to Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan expressing concern over the banks involvement in the pipeline. Stringer organized a March briefing for global investors with tribe chairmen to apply pressure on the institutions that have involvement in the pipelines, according to press reports.
But these don’t seem to be enough for the activists, who demand divesting from Wells Fargo and the other 17 financial institutions known to be invested in the pipelines; such as TD Bank, Citi, Chase and Bank of America.
New York City currently has more than $700 million pension fund investments and other business ties with Wells Fargo.
Jessica Roff of the Catskill Mountainkeepers focused on the pipeline project happening on the East Coast, spanning between New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The project, Algonquin Incremental Market, is run by Spectre Energy, a Houston-based company, and calls for replacing the 26-inch pipeline to one measuring 42 inches. The proposed plan, which crosses nearly 200 waterways in its path, has caused concern among many environmentalists and activists.
Roff summed up the situation, involving the recent merger of Spectre Energy and Canadian-based company, Enbridge, which she said holds a minority stake in the pipeline worth $1.5 billion. She touched on the dangers of the expansion project, which routes the 42-inch high pressure pipeline across Indian Point power plant land, which is controversial in itself.
Roff concludes that this is all happening for one reason: “The thing is, obviously, all of this expansion happens, why? Because of money.”