Fearless Grandmothers Take on Banks Funding Pipeline Project

Attempt to Deliver Letters Personally to CEOs in Fight Against Fossil Fuels

The Santa Barbara chapter of the Society of Fearless Grandmothers protested banks financing a Midwest pipeline that would be built across native lands. | Credit: Lily Mae Lazarus

The Society of Fearless Grandmothers, Santa Barbara, organized on Friday in protest against banks funding the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Program. The Line 3 Replacement Program holds an expense of $2.9 billion and will replace pipe for 13 miles in North Dakota, 337 miles in Minnesota, and 14 miles in Wisconsin. This fossil fuel development will be constructed on Indigenous land, and the project has been met with lawsuits by the Red Lake Nation, White Earth Nation, and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

The Fearless Grandmothers and members of organizations such as the Sunrise Movement and 350 Santa Barbara marched from the Wells Fargo bank on upper State Street to the adjacent branches of Bank of America and Chase Bank. Upon arriving at each bank, three protesters attempted to enter the businesses and hand deliver a letter to the respective CEOs informing them of the consequences of their funding and urging them to end their contributions to the climate crisis. 

In detailing a potential outcome of this demonstration, Fearless Grandmother Michal Lynch believed, “One more bank will realize that people really do not want us doing this, and it is going to impact our image, and therefore we will stop doing it.”

Credit: Lily Mae Lazarus

The group of 18 demonstrators wielded signs with messages to “Defund Line 3” and “Stop Funding Pipelines,” participating in call-and-response chants of “defund, divest, put these banks to the test,” “no pipelines on native land, no pipelines on any land,” and “no more corporate greed, renewables are what we need.”

The demonstrators’ CEO letter delivery was successful at Wells Fargo and Chase Bank but was met with some hostility by Bank of America employees. Although a manager at Wells Fargo did accept the letter of demands, those tasked with its delivery recounted their actions were met with reluctance. According to Julia Bickford, a participant in the protest, “They were not happy we were there making a scene in the bank.”

Upon entering Bank of America, Bickford and the Fearless Grandmothers faced a more aggressive reaction. Bickford described the interaction as “extraordinarily hostile.” Catherine Gautier, one of the Fearless Grandmothers who attempted to deliver the letter to Bank of America’s CEO, said that upon entering the branch, manager Javier Quintino told the group, “You are not allowed to be here; get out. We have called the police, and the police are coming.” Quintino was unavailable when the Independent attempted to contact him.

Bickford claimed Bank of America employees reacted similarly to demonstrators protesting at the lower State Street branch a few weeks prior. Gautier and Bickford also stated employees refused to take the letter and locked the protesters in the bank, leaving customers to wait outside, until forcing them to exit the property. 

Unlike bank manager behavior at Wells Fargo and Bank of America, the Fearless Grandmothers had a pleasant exchange with employees at Chase Bank. According to Gautier, branch manager Juan Rodrigo was “very nice. He listened, he heard, he took the letter and said he would do it.” Demonstrators stated they thanked him for his hospitality and his perceived receptiveness to the cause.

Although the Enbridge Line 3 project does not directly impact Santa Barbara, fossil fuel emissions, climate change and its detriments to the local ecosystem are causes of grave concern to the Fearless Grandmothers. Bank involvement in the Enbridge project serves as just one example of the finance industry’s connection to fossil fuels. According to Fearless Grandmother Irene Cooke, “Since the Paris Agreement, all the 60 largest banks have put $3.8 trillion into fossil fuels alone.” The most significant of these donors is JP Morgan Chase, the world’s largest banker of fossil fuels yearly since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Society of Fearless Grandmothers organizes and participates in various demonstrations locally. Regarding their involvement in climate justice, Cooke stated, “One of the main reasons you see a lot of gray-haired people here is we feel like our generation has really dropped the ball,” continuing, “If we don’t do something drastic and dramatic immediately, our grandchildren are inheriting a heartbreaking mess.”


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