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Four Activists Shut Down Bank of America for Fossil Fools Day Action
by Jeff Reinhardt Friday, Apr. 04, 2008 at 5:30 PM
[See other Fossil Fools Day actions nation-wide at US Indymedia: indymedia.us/en/2008/04/30851.shtml] On Tuesday April 1, at about 8:40am, four activists took direct action against the Bank of America in Copley Square, Boston, by locking themselves to the front door to protest the banks funding of coal power in the US. The action was done with support from Rising Tide North America, the Rainforest Action Network, and the Energy Action Coalition.
The four activists: Elise Ansel, Adrienne Naylor, Laila Murad, and Candace Bollinger used large, cylindrical tubes to lock their arms together, as Bollinger was locked directly to the door-handle of the bank with a bicycle u-lock around her neck. Protesters on both sides of the street held up banners, chanted, sang songs, and yelled encouragement for their four comrades, while bearing the strong wind that ripped through the streets.
Fossil Fools Day, was a day of direct, localized action against major contributors to climate change. Protests and actions occurred in several locations across the US and the World. The day was intended to spark community-based awareness and action against climate change.
Bank of America has lent over $144 billion to companies like Massey Energy, Arch Coal, and Peabody Energy, who are infamous for their human rights violations, strip mining, and mountaintop-removal coal mining. Many other major US banks have done the same, and Bank of America was not the only one with direct action taken against it on Tuesday. Activists in New York City chained themselves to a CitiBank in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Two activists there were eventually arrested.
Coal-burning power plants, which supply half of the energy consumed by the US are the number one contributors to global warming and have caused acid rain throughout the country. “It’s not just an environmental issue. The people who are most affected by the coal industry are already disadvantaged by this economic system,” said Laila Murad. “Coal plants are often built in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, and the coal is most often mined in poor areas and on indigenous land. Coal mining is just another chapter in a long and bloody story of colonialism and injustice.”
The police response was not quick. In fact, not until customers of the bank showed up to open the doors at 8:55, did any police get called to the scene. At first, the police presence was small, and no immediate action was taken. The protesters began to negotiate with the police and agreed to unlock themselves by 5pm.
Negotiations continued with the Boston Police Officers, but things escalated drastically at about 9:30, when a more significant amount of police were called to the scene. The higher ranked officers started by closing off the area using metal fences (from the neighboring restaurant) to close off a more immediate area around the "lockdown." The previous negotiations, which were going rather well, were set aside, and the police demanded that the activists unlock themselves immediately, or they would be cut out.
By 9:45, the street medics who were on-site for direct support were told by police that they could no longer aide the protesters. As more and more police began showing up, it was clear that big equipment was coming in to cut the locks and arrest the protesters.
At 10:00 the EMS showed up and following them came the special operations unit and then the bomb squad. A larger crowd began to assemble around the cordoned-off protesters— the energy became more tense as the street became more and more crowded.
Rather than going back to any negotiations, the police insisted that the protesters be cut loose from the bank. Candace Bollinger, who had a u-lock around her neck, was the first to be cut loose from the bank. The police used a small, electric saw to cut her loose. Sparks flew, and despite the protective covering used by officers over Bollinger's head, she did receive minor burns on her neck.
Next, officers cut through two of the pipes that connected the protesters arms. Again, the saw was used and the protesters had to be covered in towels to avoid burns. Boston Police were careful to block the view of this by tightly enclosing the protesters.
Around 11:30, after two of the pipes had been cut in half, the police carried the four protesters into the back of a police wagon. A crowd of reporters and onlookers swarmed the police as they hauled the protesters, who were still connected at the arms.
The four were arraigned in Boston Court the following morning after spending several hours in jail for the rest of Tuesday into the night. A trial is scheduled for April 24 and supporters are already planning to show up in solidarity.