Members of the Brown and Providence community gathered Wednesday afternoon to protest Citizens Bank’s involvement in funding the Dakota Access Pipeline and other pipeline projects.
Through its partnership with Sunoco Logistics Partners, Citizens Bank indirectly funds the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to an open letter that protestors wrote to President Christina Paxson P’19. Sunoco Logistics Partners also has an agreement with Energy Transfer Partners, and both of “these companies are building the Dakota Access, Bayou Bridge, Mariner East and Trans-Pecos pipelines,” all of which “are neither moral nor sustainable,” according to the open letter. These pipelines are responsible for “releasing a total of 111,000 gallons of oil into the environment” and threatening “the drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux and 17 million others living downstream” while also violating infringing on “Lakota burial grounds in violation of treaty agreements,” according to the letter.
The letter urges the University to end its contract with Citizens Bank until the bank closes its line of credit with Sunoco Logistics Partners. The letter currently has over 100 signatures from members of the Brown community.
Around 20 people stood outside Citizens Bank on Waterman Street chanting “shame on Citizens, shame on Brown,” “stand with Standing Rock, Brown give up on your Citizens stock” and “Citizens Bank, you can’t hide, divest now from genocide” while hoisting signs displaying phrases such as “Citizens: Stop funding violence against indigenous people,” “No trans-pecos” and “#ShameOnCitizens.”
Before protesting outside the bank, protesters began their demonstration on the Quiet Green and then moved onto the Main Green to read the open letter aloud.
Paxson plans to address the Brown community on “exploring strategies and actions Brown may undertake aligned with Brown’s values,” soon in response to a separate proposal submitted by the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies, wrote Vice President of Communications Cass Cliatt in an email to The Herald.
The protest against Citizens Bank was hosted by both Environmental Justice at Brown and the Shame on Citizens Bank campaign, according to the protest’s Facebook page. The protest was also held in collaboration with the FANG Collective, according to one of the event’s organizers. The FANG Collective is a community group with several campaigns in the Northeast working against fracking.
Ling, a supporter of the FANG Collective who chose not to provide The Herald with her last name, participated in the protest because she supports FANG’s “intersectionality of eco-justice and racial justice” and appreciates that FANG is “very supportive of … spaces” meant for people of color.
The protest was just one of many actions taken by these groups to boycott Citizens Bank. Each week, the Shame on Citizens Bank campaign helps members of the community close their accounts with the bank, said Anusha Alles, a member of the Shame on Citizens Bank campaign. Citizens Bank indirectly funds “violence against indigenous people” and projects that are “destroying our climate,” according to the campaign’s Facebook page.
The FANG Collective has also already hosted several protests against Citizens Bank, including a protest during which members of FANG locked themselves to the doors of the downtown headquarters of Citizens Bank.
The relatively peaceful protest ended in an altercation, when several protesters got into an argument with a passerby who repeatedly yelled, “Trump, Trump, Trump” and insisted “If you don’t like America, you can leave.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that the open letter to President Christina Paxson P'19 said the Dakota Access, Bayou Bridge, Mariner East and Trans-Pecos pipelines are responsible for "releasing a total of 111,000 gallons of oil into the environment." In fact, the letter said Sunoco Logistics and Energy Transfer Partners were responsible for the spillage. In addition, the article misstated that the letter said the four pipelines are responsible for desecrating Lakota burial grounds. In fact, the letter said the Dakota Access Pipeline is responsible for threatening Lakota burial grounds. The Herald regrets the errors.