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Climate Action Rhode Island takes on Thayer Street to protest JPMorgan Chase’s funding of fossil fuels

Protestors unveil 150,000 signature petition stretching past bank, toward adjacent stores

Members of Climate Action Rhode Island marched on Thayer Street Wednesday protesting JPMorgan Chase’s funding of fossil fuel companies. The group carried large signs reading “Chase funds death” and “Stop Chase the toxic bank” as they approached the bank’s Thayer location. 

The protest this week was organized partly in response to the most recent report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that provides information regarding global warming. The protestors are pressuring Chase to divest from fossil fuels, specifically the Line 3 oil pipeline project.

The group congregated on the corner of Meeting and Thayer streets, wearing neon green shirts that read “Chase Bank: Climate Criminal.” Attendee David Brunetti added that the group hopes to “create a wave of public attention about the issue” ahead of the upcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference happening in Glasgow in November.

Amalia Kontesi, who oversees sustainability communications for JPMorgan Chase, declined to comment on the protest.

“Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight,” the group chanted as they marched toward the bank. Some rattled maracas while others tapped on drums. Participants handed out neon green flyers encouraging passersby to “boycott Chase” and “cut up your Chase credit cards.” The flyers implicated other banks like Bank of America, Santander and TD Bank as other major funders of the fossil fuel industry. 

“We live in a market economy, and the consumer is the one who should call the shots,” said Marcia Taylor, another protestor. “We are all consumers, and we are saying no to this. We don’t want to buy it, we don’t want to fund it, we don’t want dividends from Chase. We want Chase to straighten up and fly right.”

This protest is one of many organized by CARI, said Brian Wilder, the organizer of the CARI protest.

“It’s a long term thing. We can’t just protest once or twice and go home and expect anything,” Wilder said. “We have … to educate the public that they shouldn't be doing any business with them, until Chase realizes that its reputation, its brand, is going down the toilet.”

For another attendee, Jeannine Giguere-Gagnon, the effects of climate change are already evident and demand urgency. “The extreme heat, the hurricanes — people are dying now, it’s happening now, and this is not supposed to happen,” Giguere-Gagnon said. 

“No more gas, no more oil, keep your poison in the soil,” the group continued to chant as they neared the end of their march. During their hour-long stay outside the Chase Bank, the group unrolled a list of signatures petitioning the corporation to stop funding fossil fuels. The paper, which contained 150,000 signatures, according to Giguere-Gagnon, stretched down the sidewalk, past the bank’s office and toward adjacent stores.

Current and former Rhode Island politicians delivered speeches at the protest.

Rhode Island State Sen. Kendra Anderson (D-Warwick, Cranston) spoke about the effects of climate change on the younger generation.

“We cannot sacrifice any population, any animal, any river, any oceans, streams, forests, just so a lucky, privileged few can live on this earth,” Anderson said to cheers and applause from the protestors.

For Anderson, the climate crisis is “the quintessential issue” due to its crucial bearing on issues such as transportation, housing, employment and healthcare.

Echoing Anderson, Aaron Regunberg ’12, former member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, called climate change “literally an existential crisis” as it “can’t be disconnected from every other issue.”

“We can’t talk about racial justice unless we talk about climate justice because it is overwhelmingly people of color that are at the front lines of climate disasters,” Regunberg said. “We can’t talk about economic justice (or) immigration justice unless we talk about climate justice.” 

Mia Williams GS, who is currently pursuing a PhD in the French and Francophone Studies department, has been involved in climate change activism since 2019 and attended Wednesday's protest. “I simply just don’t want to live in the future that (the IPCC) is projecting,” she said.

For Regunberg, mitigating the climate crisis means investing in the future of his five-month-old son. “I’m thinking about the kind of world he’s going to inherit and the kind of life he’s going to have, and it’s really scary if we allow institutions like Chase Bank to keep funding projects like (the Line 3 pipeline.)”

Activists remain hopeful that their actions have the potential to enact real-world change and prevent a climate disaster.

“There’s a lot to be fearful of right now,” Regunberg said, “but we also know there's a whole lot to be hopeful about in our climate movement right now.”

Williams is similarly hopeful about the potential for their activism to effect real change. “I want to live in a better world, and we have the power to make it better,” she said. “We just have to try. That’s why I’m part of this.”



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