An incredibly noisy protest was orchestrated in front of Wells Fargo bank in New Paltz last Saturday morning. As many as 200 protesters gathered on the sidewalk in front of the bank, carrying signs and reciting chants in support of the so-called Water Protectors who are trying to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from being built. The bank was chosen as part of a nationwide push to pressure board members of the largest institutional investors in the pipeline —including Wells Fargo — to divest their companies and dry up the project’s money supply.
A man with a megaphone strolled up and down, leading chants such as “Up with Standing Rock/yeah, yeah/down with the bankers/boo, boo.” Other participants handed out fliers to passersby on foot and in vehicles. Police officers on hand were much gentler than the ones using water cannons on the North Dakota protestors in freezing temperatures; all they did was keep people from walking into the road, standing on the bank property, or preventing people from walking by on the sidewalk.
One of the organizers, Iris Marie Bloom, spent a week at Standing Rock and then four more touring the country to try to help other Americans understand what’s going on at that site. She spoke about the “courage and commitment” of those protestors, who like the ones in New Paltz, she said, were entirely non-violent; she contrasted that to the “shocking violence” employed by police officers in response.
Because the planned Pilgrim Pipelines along the Thruway will carry the same Bakken crude that is obtained through fracking as the Dakota Access Pipeline, many protestors consider them part of the same problem. Sue Rosenberg, another organizer, said that the larger goal is to have actions somewhere in the country every single day of December. Among the groups associated with Saturday’s protest were Citizen Action of the Hudson Valley, the NY-NJ Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline, and the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition.