How-To: Decrying Native Oppression with Oil Drums and PVC

2017-03-04 BoA Action 133

Marc Osten, a local Amherst, Ma., resident, father, and activist, locks down.

Press Release:

March 4th, 2017, Amherst, MA – This morning at 9:01am a group of local residents locked
themselves to 55 gallon drums at the front entrance to the Bank of America in the center of Amherst, MA. This provocative non-violent direct action targets the funders of the Dakota Access and Trans-Pecos Pipelines.

Using guerrilla street theater, the activists called on themselves and others to stop using banks that use their money to finance the fossil fuel industry as well as the human and civil rights abuses of Native peoples and others who are peacefully protesting these pipelines. The guerilla theater activists indicated they will continue to support the Water Protectors who’ve put out the call to action.

They emphasized that it is up to people, including themselves, to take personal action!

“We can blame the banks who fund the fossil fuel industry but the truth is that it is OUR money they are using to fund the pipelines and violence against peaceful protesters,” stated Marc Osten, a local Amherst resident, father and activist.

“We have the power to use our money for good! That means we have to take the responsibility to not let our money be used by banks and fossil fuel companies who care about one and only one thing – money! If we do not choose to use our money wisely then we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves why? We have a choice and the power. IT’S TIME WE USE IT!”

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Before they began the action, the activists delivered a letter to the bank manager, emphasizing that their action was not a personal attack against any bank employee, but rather demanding change from the institution as a whole. In addition to the three guerrilla theater activists, the public education part of the action was handled by other concerned residents.

These students, parents, elders and others set up two Alternative Banking Tables where they assisted people interested in moving their money from Bank of America and TD Bank.

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The group of three local residents who locked themselves to the 55 gallon drums are Steven Botkin, Adrie Lester and Marc Osten. They are part of a much larger group of local allies who have vowed to peacefully and prayerfully disrupt the operations of area banks funding the pipelines. They collectively made the following statement:

We deeply believe that the increasing prayerful resistance happening at pipeline sites around the nation and world is a turning point in the world’s understanding of the importance of solidarity, indigenous sovereignty, and moving beyond fossil fuels. What’s been asked of us as allies is to dismantle the financial support of this pipeline by pressuring its investors, including TD Bank and Bank of America, to immediately cease their funding of the pipelines.

We will not stand by as these banks use OUR money to profit off of the destruction of treaty-protected sacred sites, drinking water for millions of people, and our right to a liveable planet. We will also not stand silently and watch as our fellow residents let their money be used to fund environmental crimes and suppression of peaceful protest. It is up to US to use our money for good!

Additional personal statements below.

Adrie Lester: “I am a mother and New Salem resident, who has worked in local food systems and health services. Ordinary people’s money is funding the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which jeopardizes the drinking water of millions. Ordinary people also have tremendous power and opportunity- move your money to a local bank that invests in our community instead of in destruction.”

Steven Botkin: “I am a 62 year old white man who has been blessed to live, work and raise my family in the Amherst area since 1979. I cannot in good conscience do nothing while the violations of Native rights continue to escalate. I cannot in good conscience do nothing while fossil fuel industry leaders are taking control of our government. I cannot in good conscience – as a White American, and as a Jewish American – ignore heartfelt appeals from First Nation Peoples for allies to stand with them. I am asking those of you who also have been privileged with financial resources to move your money out of the institutions that fund these violations.”

Marc Osten – “I am an Amherst resident, father and activist living with enormous privilege simply because of the color of my skin and my gender. Today, I answer the call from Native Peoples to acknowledge, understand and use my privileged position to support their struggle against oppression and the destruction of our earth. I invite and challenge all of us to declare that we will not give banks OUR money when they fund oppression of Native Peoples and destruction of our wondrous home – earth.”

Watch the livestream of the Bank of America action:


2 responses to “How-To: Decrying Native Oppression with Oil Drums and PVC

  1. RIP Marc Osten. Killed in a motorcycle accident one month after this event. From Daily Hampshire Gazette (

    AMHERST — A resident well-known for raising awareness about climate change and other progressive issues died Wednesday, two days after suffering critical injuries in a motorcycle crash on Kellogg Avenue.

    Emergency responders identified Marc Osten, 55, of Amherst as the motorist transported to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield after the motorcycle he was riding crashed into a tree at 2:41 p.m. on Monday.

    Lt. William Menard, who oversees the Amherst Police Department’s detective unit, said town officers and the Massachusetts State Police’s Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Unit are investigating the accident. They have not identified a cause. Osten was traveling east on Kellogg Avenue when the motorcycle crashed.

    Osten, a longtime activist, had participated in three recent protests targeting Bank of America and TD Bank. The most recent occurred in front of the Bank of America on South Pleasant Street on April 13 — just four days before the crash. He played the role of a banker in a guerrilla street theater action that included the pretend dousing of customers with what looked like oil.

    In December, Osten was one of four people arrested for blocking entrances to the TD Bank on Triangle Street. Then, in March, he and two other protesters tied themselves to mock oil barrels in front of the Bank of America.

    Colleen Osten said Friday that her husband was committed to justice for the Native American community and saw a way to accomplish this through divestment from banks.

    But she said she hopes people will also remember her husband for the joy he brought others and his being a gifted communicator.

    “Marc was a really joyful person,” Osten said

    She points to his excelling as a “vlogger,” specifically the hundreds of “Culinary Compass” episodes he filmed in which he would interview food people on travels across the United States and the world. In these, Colleen Osten said, he exhibited his humor, cheekiness and fun, and would always sign off with the phrase “Ciao for Now.”

    “It shows the non-political, playful side of Marc,” Colleen Osten said.

    Former School Committee member Kathleen Traphagen said she knew Marc Osten for 30 years, from when both were working in Boston, and decided to move to Amherst with her own family after the Ostens had already arrived.

    “I think Marc was a person who brought fierce, fierce joy to so much,” Traphagen said. “Anything he did he did 1,000 percent, whether cooking, gardening, music, or a dinner party, or being an activist.”

    Traphagen, who was one of the subjects who had the fake oil poured on her head last week, said Marc Osten was a talented organizer and connector, and his death is a huge loss for Amherst and the region’s progressives.

    Dr. Kate Atkinson, who runs a family practice in Amherst, said in an email that Osten was a man of political action who should be praised for inspiring others, especially college students.

    “He was really rallying young people in our community and his loss is tragic,” Atkinson said.

    On the website for his consulting firm, Marc Osten wrote: “I am a direct action strategist, social media specialist, planner, provocateur and front-line activist. I fight greedy, corrupt, shameless corporations and oligarchs that manipulate and control people, erode democratic institutions and destroy our precious planet.”

    John Strickland, who lives at the nearby Clark House, said that he and other neighbors came upon the crash after it happened. They saw Osten on the ground, he said.

    A town police officer arrived and began providing CPR before anyone else could provide aid, Strickland said.

    Strickland said it seemed like Osten lost control, though he was not there to see it firsthand.

    “I couldn’t imagine him going very fast,” Strickland said. “It didn’t look like the type of motorcycle you would go speeding with.”

    Colleen Osten said her husband’s ride home after having coffee with a friend was going to be no different than any other day, and she had looked forward to joining him for an afternoon walk with their dogs.

    “Witnesses say that Marc appeared to have had some sort of physical event that happened first and which led to him losing consciousness and thereafter having the accident,” Osten said.

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