Seattle is two states and one big mountain range away from North Dakota.
But for Lisa Herbold, a Seattle city council member, the voices of folks shivering outside in America’s heartland needed to be heard.
“It really moves me to think of the people who are hundreds of miles away from us today, waiting in the cold for our vote,” Herbold explained to the Los Angeles Times.
Thankfully, Seattle was listening. And it voted unanimously on the right side of history.
On Feb. 7, 2017, Seattle became the first city in the country to cut financial ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL — a project that could contaminate the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s clean water supply.
Seattle wasn’t directly funding the pipeline, of course. But Wells Fargo bank is.
The city had been in business with Wells Fargo until Tuesday, when council members voted to have the Emerald City move its $3 billion account from Wells Fargo to a bank that hasn’t funded DAPL.
The transfer makes for one of the bank’s largest consumer blowbacks ever.
In a statement, Wells Fargo said it was “disappointed” in the city’s vote and that it “will continue investing in [Seattle’s] diverse and dynamic community.”
The bank’s not getting any sympathy from council member Kshama Sawant, though: “We’re making it bad for their bottom line.”
And to DAPL opponents like herself, that’s the whole point.
What happened in Seattle is welcome news for opponents of the pipeline at a time when they could certainly use a win.
Many DAPL protesters have been feeling particularly discouraged recently as President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for continued DAPL drilling (Barack Obama had halted construction before leaving office). On Feb. 8 — the day after Seattle voted to separate itself from Wells Fargo — drilling started up again, NBC News reported, and the company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, was granted all mandatory approvals to carry on.
But Seattle made major waves by pulling the plug on Wells Fargo, and we may start to see other cities following suit.
“What Seattle voted to do … is sending shockwaves through the banking industry,” activist Shaun King wrote for The Daily News. “For pretty much their entire existence, banks have gotten away with taking our business, holding our money, and charging us fees, while simultaneously funding our oppression. People have had enough.”
The vote in Seattle marks a major victory in the divestment movement — an effort to get people, groups, and governments to quit supporting businesses that are making DAPL possible.
Although Wells Fargo is one of the largest backers of the pipeline, many other well-known banks — including Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America — are quietly helping DAPL become a reality. (In fact, you’ll probably recognize a lot of familiar names on the list of funders.)
If you refuse to play along with banks using your support to help fund DAPL, take your business elsewhere.
There are plenty of banks not supporting DAPL that also have good track records when it comes to a range of other social, economic, and environmental issues. Credit unions, too, can be a great alternative — they’re nonprofits, tend to invest locally, and offer low interest rates and fees.
The corporate forces behind DAPL are strong. But as Seattle showed the world, you — and your bank account — are no weaklings.
“In the end, when you are fighting for what’s right, the rising tide of history will be on your side,” wrote King. “Our fight may be hard, but be encouraged, we will win.”