Local efforts to oppose Dakota Access pipeline collide with Portland institutions

WATER IS LIFE | Juliana Villa led a group of Bowdoin College protestors down Congress Street last November, demanding that TD Bank cut their ties with the Dakota Access Pipeline. Photo Courtesy of the 350 Maine Facebook Page WATER IS LIFE | Juliana Villa led a group of Bowdoin College protestors down Congress Street last November, demanding that TD Bank cut their ties with the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Local efforts to oppose the Dakota Pipeline have pushed beyond hashtags and social media and hit the streets.

On December 19 and 30, small groups of protestors gathered at the Portland TD Banknorth branch at 1 Portland Sq., protesting the bank's status as a financial backer in the proposed construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota. 

The most recent effort, mobilized by the Portland branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), called for Portlanders to close their accounts with TD Banknorth in a collective effort. 

Others have taken to calling out the bank's other ties within the Portland community. A petition launched by Matthew Raymond in mid-December - titled "Divest From TD Bank, Stand With Standing Rock" - called for local LGBTQ rights organizations EqualityMaine and Pride Portland to divest from their financial relationships with the banking giant.   

The petition read as follows:

"TD Bank is heavily invested and supportive of the North Dakota Access Pipeline, which is currently leaking over 8,000 barrels worth of oil and threatening indigenous people's sacred burial grounds. EqualityMaine & Portland Pride have received tens of thousands of dollars from TD Bank over the past year, so the LGBT community in Maine has a duty to stand up against this implicit support of anti-Native American activities." 

Launched by Matthew Raymond, a student at the University of Southern Maine and Vice President of USM's Student Government Association, the petition had collected 281 signatures by January 3. Raymond says he has notified EqualityMaine's Executive Director Matt Moonen, and plans to formally present it should the petition reach 1000 signatures - though right now he says "we're a long way away from that."

"My work as an community organizer and student advocate here in the Greater Portland area tied into this issue well," Raymond says. "We're always striving to 'follow the money.' It just so happens that this money EQME and Pride Portland receive from TD Bank for corporate advertising is dirtied with the spilt oil and blood from North Dakota."

TD Bank has been a sponsor of Portland's Pride Festival and annual parade, celebrated each June, since 2013. In 2014, TD Bank's chief executive Ed Clark told the Huffington Post that being a champion of social issues helps the financial institution's bottom line.

"There are rewards not just in heaven," Clark told the Huffington Post, "but eventually in the shareholder, if you run an institution that people say, 'I love their employment brand, they create a different atmosphere.'"

Jules Purnell, a former employee of EqualityMaine who supports the call for divestment, wrote in a statement to The Phoenix: "As a former employee of EQME, I fully support EQME divesting from any partnership that contributes to the DAPL. The struggles of native people and queer people are bound up in the same oppressions, and our communities should support one another. We white and non-native queer and trans people should not be contributing to the continued degradation and genocide of the people who called this land home long before any of the rest of us did."

Executive Director Matt Moonen of EqualityMaine could not be reached by press time, but this story will be updated. 

At press time, the DefundDAPL website (defunddapl.org) estimates that more than $43m has been divested from national banks as a result of protests.

tji TDBankProtest2 PhotoCourtesyof350Maine

On December 2, the U.S. Army Corps denied the easement to build the pipeline to Energy Transfer Partners, the proposed. But many among the defenders at Standing Rock and their allies believe the fight could adopt a different tenor in a Trump administration. Those opposing the construction of the pipeline say it breaks the treaties the U.S. Government made with indigenous peoples and jeopardizes access to clean water.

This is not the first time there's been direct action in Portland against TD Bank's affiliation with U.S. pipelines. In January 2014, two citizens chained themselves to the bank's front doors to protest TD Bank's investment in the Keystone pipeline, which transported tar sands oil to refineries in Port Arthur and Houston, Texas.

Last modified onTuesday, 03 January 2017 21:42