DefundDAPL was a huge, nationwide, indigenous-led and -inspired movement against the banks financing the Dakota Access pipeline. As reported in the Financial Times, a recent academic analysis revealed that depositor activism against the banks funding DAPL may have cost those banks as much as $20 billion.
Here in Seattle, we were at the forefront of a lot of that activism. Alongside a number of incredible Native American activists, including Rachel Heaton and Matt Remle (who would go on to found Mazaska Talks), we founded the Defund DAPL – Seattle Action Coalition. As part of that coalition, we helped to organize a major protest movement against Wells Fargo. In December 2016, using a distributed organizing model we helped organize over 30 protests outside a dozen Wells Fargo branches. Then on Jan 5th, 2018, we hosted a mass day of action at the Wells Fargo Center, when 40+ Wells Fargo customers closed their accounts and over 500 people rallied outside.
After that, our attention switched to the City Council, where Councilmember Sawant, after being asked to do so by our friend Matt Remle, introduced an ordinance for the City to divest from Wells Fargo. Over the next month, we helped to generate thousands of phone calls to City Council — and when it came to a vote at the City’s Finance Committee, almost 1,000 activists showed up to show support for its passage.
Immediately after that, we created a distributed researched tool — Divest Your City — which enabled us to find out where almost 330 cities banked. We then partnered with Mazaska Talks and CM Sawant to host a series of conference calls that were attended by hundreds of activists, organizers and elected officials from around the country, encouraging them to run divestment campaigns in their own cities.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here. When no other bank bid for Seattle’s banking contract, its current contract with Wells Fargo was in fact renewed — and the City got stuck with Wells Fargo for another three years.
This demonstrated to us how dependent on Wall Street the City really is — and why we need a real alternative, like a City of Seattle Public Bank. For more on this, please read about our ongoing campaign calling for a public bank.