Environmental protesters target Amherst banks: ‘The money pipeline’

  • left with mega phone, Amrita Rutter, and Marisol Bonifaz, high school students with Amherst Sunrise, lead a group of protesters against the pipeline from TD bank up to Bank Of America on Wed. Dec. 8, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amrita Rutter, from left, Marisol Bonifaz and Sita Rutter, high school students with Amherst Sunrise, lead protesters against the pipeline from TD bank up to Bank Of America in Amherst on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/8/2021 8:55:40 PM
Modified: 12/8/2021 8:55:12 PM

AMHERST — Over the summer, Felicia Mednick of Amherst allied with Indigenous tribes in Minnesota trying to fend off construction of a pipeline they say will compromise their water supply and cause other environmental degradation.

Drawing on this experience, Mednick, a member of the local Mothers Out Front chapter, on Wednesday gathered with other protesters outside downtown Amherst banks to make the case against funding similar pipelines.

“We’re asking the bank managers to tell their higher-ups that customers may pull their money out of the banks if they don’t change their investment strategies,” Mednick said.

The hourlong Stop the Money Pipeline action was organized by Climate Action Now, Extinction Rebellion and the Amherst chapters of Mothers Out Front and Sunrise.

Beginning at the TD Bank branch on Triangle Street and concluding at the Bank of America on South Pleasant Street, the protesters held signs reading “Stop Funding Climate Disaster” and “Stop the Money Pipeline” and wore costumes, with some dressed in red robes signifying the casualties of climate change, while others donned headdresses designed to look like the clean energy source of the sun.

The banks were chosen for their involvement in financing Line 3, an oil pipeline owned by the Canadian multinational Enbridge, that runs more than 1,000 miles from Hardisty, in Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin.

“Collectively we are asking financial institutions to divest from fossil fuel pipelines,” said ChristeneDeJong of Amherst, a member of both Extinction Rebellion and Mothers Out Front.

“This is an amazing moment of groups coming together,” DeJong said.

A letter drafted to the banks reads, in part, “We urge you to respond to this climate emergency and remove all funding for fossil fuel projects.”

Though DeJong and Mednick attempted to hand-deliver the letter, both bank branches locked their doors, though they managed to get the letter through TD Bank’s drive-through window. They said they would not be deterred, at one point singing “we are gentle angry people, and we are singing for our lives.”

Andra Rose of Amherst, a member of Mothers Out Front, pledged to return. “We will bring it back tomorrow when we are not so threatening,” Rose said.

Teenagers belonging to Amherst Sunrise explained their support for stopping construction of pipelines that carry oil and gas.

“We need to divest from fossil fuel to save our future,” said Marisol Pierce Bonifaz, an Amherst Regional High School student.

Even though calendars say it is mid-December, fellow student Julian Hines said that no snow on the ground is another indication of the changing climate.

Paige Wilkins, a spokeswoman for TD Bank, provided a statement via email that TD Bank believes in responsible development of natural resources that balances environmental, social and economic considerations.

“TD recognizes the importance of responsibly developing conventional energy as we support the long-term transition to a low-carbon economy and a sustainable future. Under our Climate Action Plan, TD aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions associated with our operations and financing activities by 2050, aligned with principles of the Paris Agreement.”

A request for comment from Bank of America was not immediately returned.

The action came in in advance of the 11th Hour Bell Ringing for Climate Change being held Saturday at 10:45 a.m. on the South Amherst Common. The initiative aims to have churches nationwide ring bells for 11 minutes on the 11th day of each month at 11 a.m.


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