Protesters waved colorful signs — painted with messages like “protect the lungs of the planet” and “defund fossil fuels” — outside Chase Bank’s Thayer Street location Friday. The sound of chants and songs filled the air as mid-day traffic slowed, some drivers honking and waving their hands in support. One protester brought a guitar.
Activists with Climate Action Rhode Island were calling for Chase to cut its fossil fuel industry investments.
The gathering of about 35 people was the latest in a series of nation-wide protests called Stop the Money Pipeline, which aim to disrupt the financing of the fossil fuel industry. The protestors demanded that Chase fully divest from fossil fuels and, in the meantime, asked that customers close their accounts with the bank.
Between 2016 and 2018, JPMorgan Chase invested nearly $196 billion in the fossil fuel industry — more than any other U.S. bank, Justin Boyan, current president of Climate Action RI, said, citing a report last year on fossil fuel investments, which was published by a group of environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network and BankTrack.
Other major banks have reduced investments in fossil fuels, including HSBC in 2018 and BlackRock last year, Boyan added.
“Sustainability is an important part of serving our communities,” Carolyn Evert, vice president of Northeast regional communications at JPMorgan Chase, wrote in an email to The Herald. “Also, we recognize the complexity of climate change issues and actively engage with a diverse set of stakeholders to understand their views.”
Evert wrote that JPMorgan Chase is committed to converting to “renewable energy for 100 percent of our global power needs by the end of 2020 and to facilitate $200 billion in clean financing by 2025.”
Kendra Anderson, former president and current chair of fundraising for Climate Action RI, spoke to the protesters and led chants on a megaphone. Anderson is currently running for RI State Senate in District 31.
“The investing that Chase is doing is suicide investing,” she said. “There’s no reason for it to go on any longer.”
Shortly after the protest began, a single-file stream of protestors walked through the crowd outside the branch, and into the building. They held signs in the shape of gravestones, each inscribed with a event caused by climate change — and their corresponding death tolls.
Inside the bank, protesters read their specific natural disaster out loud — ending the statement with “funded by Chase” — and laid down on the floor. So-called “die-ins” have become a popular form of public protest amongst climate change activists.
Police arrived on-site several minutes later and escorted the protesters out of the building.
Employees of the Chase bank present at the protest declined to comment.
Some of the protesters outside are regularly involved with Climate Action RI, while others joined in after walking by.
Will Nakshian has been to four other protests with Climate Action. He said he’s protesting for his two children.
Nakshian had never been an activist and was never involved in politics — but that changed after he read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report in 2018. “When I heard about what could happen to (my children’s) future, I became very concerned,” Nakshian said.
Ben Glickman is the 132nd editor-in-chief and president of The Brown Daily Herald. He previously served as a metro editor and oversaw the College Hill and Fox Point beat, in addition to writing and editing about city politics, COVID-19 and the 2020 election. He is the co-creator of the Bruno Brief, The Herald's first news podcast. In his free time, he is passionate about birds (also tweeting) and eating way too spicy food.