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!”
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.
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: