Bold Iowa, part of the larger Bold Alliance that works to stop fossil fuel projects in rural states and promote environmental interests, mobilized for a “Day of Direct Action” across the state on Wednesday.
The protests were in opposition to the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, the majority of which is already constructed. The pipeline stretches across Jasper County and is intended to carry oil from North Dakota to a shipping point in Illinois.
Newton’s U.S. Bank was one of many protest sites on Wednesday. Protests also occurred in Ames, Cedar Falls, Davenport, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Grinnell, Iowa City, Sioux City, Urbandale and other locations.
The gathering in Newton was small and peaceful. Kathy Holdefer and Pat McNamara of Mingo and Daryl Irving and Sue Irving of Knoxville occupied U.S. Bank and sat down with Branch Manager Michelle Lambert to voice their concerns about the pipeline.
“We decided we wanted to do something very peaceful and get communication going and to find out if you even understand that your bank is one of the investors in the pipeline,” Holdefer said to Lambert.
Lambert was polite and passed along the protesters’ contact information to a liaison at the bank’s corporate headquarters. All local-level U.S. Bank employees handle inquiries about the Dakota Access Pipeline the same way, Lambert said.
“What I can do is take your information and get it to them, and they will directly contact you,” Lambert said to the group. “I’m not able to release any information. That’s not my position.”
Holdefer shared a Bold Iowa press release with Lambert and stated the group’s request.
“We would like to see, for the sake of Iowa, for the sake our indigenous brothers and sisters in North Dakota and everybody affected, that U.S. Bank, which is a trusted and respected bank, divest from something really harmful and potentially disastrous for our environment and our people,” Holdefer said.
Lambert then provided the Bold Iowa representatives with a sheet of U.S. Bank sustainability facts. The handout stated U.S. Bank’s investment of more than $1.5 billion in renewable energy in 2016, and the institution’s commitment to reducing its corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2029.
The meeting concluded with a moment of silence for the protesters in North Dakota, who were evicted from their camp Wednesday afternoon by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lambert looked to U.S. Bank Marketing Manager Bret Pugh for guidance and agreed to the moment of silence. The meeting ended on friendly terms.
The protesters said it went well and were happy to keep the lines of communication open. Even though most of the pipeline is completed and people in powerful positions seem poised to finish the project, Holdefer said the protesters can still have an impact.
“We can still encourage the companies that are investing in this to divest. That can still have an impact on the project as a whole,” she said. “That’s the main reason that we were talking to US Bank today.”
Even if oil starts to flow through the pipeline, Bold Iowa and the protesters who occupied Newton on Wednesday said they will keep fighting it. Sue Irving said we can’t continue to let greedy corporations disintegrate the planet that we all count on.
“It’s about people. It’s about the environment. It’s about the planet,” Irving said. “And it’s about being calm and respectful.”
Contact Justin Jagler at 641-792-3121 ext 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org