Anti-pipeline prayers vigils to target banks

Staff Writer
Thursday, November 03, 2016

AMHERST — Prayer vigils in front of two downtown banks are scheduled for Saturday morning as part of continuing efforts to oppose an oil pipeline proposed to run through Native American tribal land in the Dakotas.

The first vigil against the Dakota Access Pipeline will be in front of the Bank of America, 1 South Pleasant St., at 10 a.m., while the second vigil will be next to the TD Bank, 243 Triangle St., at 11 a.m.

The $3.8 billion pipeline would carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois, beneath the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and, according to opponents, risks compromising the water quality and disturbing cultural artifacts for the Standing Rock Sioux.

The developer, Energy Transfer Partners of Texas, has said the project is safe.

People calling themselves the Land Protectors of the Standing Rock have been gathered near the reservation, about 50 miles south of Bismarck, North Dakota, to oppose the four-state pipeline. But last week, more than 140 people were arrested by law enforcement, and the tribe is also fighting the pipeline’s permitting process in federal court

Deb Tyler, an organizer of the Amherst event, which is being held in partnership with Climate Action Now, said a letter will be delivered to each bank manager requesting divestment from the pipeline and its subsidiaries, and protesters will attempt to raise awareness with customers.

“And we will do this through peaceful prayer, just as it is being done at Standing Rock,” Tyler said.

The Amherst vigils follow ones held Monday in Northampton, when members of the western Massachusetts chapter of Showing Up for Social Justice gathered in front of the TD Bank, and Wednesday, at the same location, when Dori Midnight led a Jewish water ritual to pray for the end of the pipeline.

That action was initiated by leaders of Jewish Voice for Peace, a national organization working toward a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

“As Jews who have experienced displacement in our own histories, whose spiritual traditions are tied to the earth and water, and who are dedicated to justice for the Palestinian people who have been displaced due to the policies of the Israeli state, it is crucial for us to be here today to honor indigenous sovereignty and show solidarity for the water protectors at Standing Rock,” organizer Rachel Weber said in a statement.

Scott Merzbach can be reached atsmerzbach@gazettenet.com.