Philly with Standing Rock and PhillyWeRise held an Emergency Rally for Standing Rock protest on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, in Center City, Philadelphia. Approximately 80 – 100 protesters gathered at Thomas Paine Plaza across from City Hall on short notice at 8:00 a.m. in temperatures in the 30’s. The call to action came on Thursday in response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granting Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) the final easement needed to drill under a reservoir in North Dakota. The event garnered even greater urgency after Monday’s ruling from the U.S. District Court denying a temporary restraining order against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
Protestors chanted and held signs facing the busy morning traffic for about an hour, and then began a march through Center City that stopped at each Wells Fargo bank branch in the area and snarled traffic throughout the grid in the process. Wells Fargo is a major investor in the pipeline, and has been a target of protests across the country. The City of Seattle last week decided in a unanimous City Council vote to divest from the bank because of its ties to the DAPL, and today’s organizers voiced hope that Philadelphia would follow suit.
Speakers exhorted their audience to contact Philadelphia Councilwoman Cindy Bass about the issue, based on her having introduced a resolution in 2016 calling on the City of Philadelphia to “hold hearings on the impact of the Wells Fargo Bank scandal on Philadelphians and the feasibility of removing Wells Fargo Bank as a City depository.” The resolution is currently still in committee after an initial hearing.
A call to Councilwoman Bass’ office revealed that the resolution had nothing to do with the DAPL, and came solely as a result of the bank’s predatory lending practices. Angela Bowie, Senior Policy Advisor to Councilwoman Bass, said that the bill is “not connected to that [the DAPL],” and that “if we are able to move the bill [out of committee], it would not be because of that.” Bowie indicated that regardless of the motivating concerns of the legislation, Bass’ office is “not sure what the next steps” are to move the bill forward. She also stated that even if the bill did emerge from committee, “It would be a long process.”
The conversation revealed a potentially significant discrepancy between the hopes of local protestors and the realities of the Philadelphia government. While news covering the Seattle divestiture has hinted that Philadelphia was considering withdrawing its funds from Wells Fargo because of the DAPL, this is clearly not the case based on the current city legislative docket.
Nonetheless, Bowie voiced great interest in the concerns about the DAPL – Wells Fargo connection. It may be that local organizers need to help constituents amplify their voices about the issue to garner greater attention from the City Council, and today Philly With Standing Rock did just that by calling on protestors to call Councilwoman Bass about divestiture.