Northampton rally targets Chase Bank for backing of fossil fuel companies

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 03-22-2023 9:53 AM

More than 100 demonstrators turned out in Northampton on Tuesday to protest the planned opening of a Chase Bank branch in Northampton, with protesters taking aim at the bank’s dealings with fossil fuel companies and calling for people to boycott the company.

The event was led by climate activist groups, including Climate Action Now, Mothers Out Front, and Extinction Rebellion, along with several faith-based organizations. The groups had also protested at the recent opening of a Chase Bank branch in Springfield earlier in the month.

Spirits ran high at the start of the rally at 4:30 p.m. in Pulaski Park, with a boisterous crowd singing songs and chanting slogans in opposition to Chase and other large banks that provide capital funding to fossil fuel firms.

Youth climate activists Ollie Perrault, 16, and Morgan Brown-McNeil, 15, told the crowd that people must act quickly to prevent a climate crisis, citing a recent United Nations report that stated greenhouse gas emissions must be cut in half before the end of the decade to stave off global-scale climate disaster.

“We can ignore the statistics, we can turn our back on the fire, but there is no doubt that somebody’s house is burning down,” Brown-McNeil said from a makeshift stage. “In some ways, this is a cry for help — please, with the power that you have as functioning consumers in today’s society, boycott Chase Bank.”

Chase is a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest banking and financial services corporations in the United States and the world, with billions invested in oil and gas companies. The conglomerate’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, has spoken favorably of those industries in recent months, saying continued investment is needed due to disruption in the energy sector caused by the war in Ukraine.

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Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, an Episcopal priest and climate activist, called on Chase and other large banks to divest from fossil fuels and to instead invest in clean energy.

“Fear, sorrow and anger have brought  us here. But above all, we are here because we love, we love this beautiful earth,” she said. “We are here to stand up for life, and we are not alone. We will speak and sing and march in the company and with the support of all the creatures and elements with whom we share this planet.”

Justin Page, a regional spokesperson for Chase, said in a statement that the bank had also invests heavily in green and low-carbon sources of energy.

“We provide financing all across the energy sector: supporting energy security, helping clients accelerate their low carbon transitions and increasing clean energy financing with a target of $1 trillion for green initiatives by 2030,” Page said.

Following the rally in Pulaski Park, protesters marched down Main Street through downtown Northampton to the bank’s planned location at 1 King St., also known as the Silverscape Design building, where Chase plans to open April 11. Once there, several rallygoers cut up their Chase credit cards as a sign of protest.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.

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