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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on March 14 in favor of a resolution urging the city treasurer to update the city’s investment policy, with the goal of eventually divesting funds from Bank of America, because of its investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
The San Francisco Defund DAPL Coalition mobilized at City Hall, with nearly 30 members of the community speaking out against the injustices suffered by indigenous communities and the questionable ethics of contracting with Bank of America.
Though the resolution—sponsored by District 1 Supervisor Sandra Fewer and District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen—does not guarantee divestment, it urges the treasurer to immediately include a DAPL “screen” in the Socially Responsible Investment Matrix, the policy that helps guide the treasurer’s investment decisions and ultimately determines where taxpayer money is invested.
The two supervisors would like to see the treasurer give more weight to the “socially responsible” criteria in its cash management contract bidding process. Currently, it accounts for 5 percent of the bidder score, and the supervisors would like to follow Seattle’s example and increase that to 20 percent.
Many of Tuesday’s speakers have been on the frontline at Standing Rock, including Jacqueline Fielders, a daughter of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which is one of the tribes suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to consult with tribes over the construction of the pipeline.
Fielders highlighted the fact that the city invests $10 billion of taxpayer money with Bank of America. The Bank then loans it to clients such as Energy Transfer Partners (the firm behind DAPL), “who then use that money to create environmentally destructive pipelines.” Fielders said that when the city changes its bank, “it is effectively taking away ammo from our oppressors.”
Hailey Malaika Clarke, who returned from Standing Rock in December, said she was tear gassed by private security officers and witnessed other peaceful protectors being sprayed with mace and shot with rubber bullets.
“It was very clear that native peoples and people of color were being attacked on the frontlines,” said Clarke.
The Defund DAPL Coalition was joined by representatives from Idle No More SF Bay, Chinese Progressive Association, and other members of the community.
Isabella Zizi, a representative from Idle No More SF Bay, has family three hours away from Standing Rock who has been affected by fracking. She discussed some of the various risks of fracking including cancer, immune diseases, miscarriages, and poisoning of clean water.
Zizi said it’s a human rights violation, not just for people in her territory, but for everyone. She spoke on the importance of taking steps towards protecting future generations to ensure that they have clean air, water and soil.
The coalition has conducted research to identify U.S.-chartered commercial banks that it characterizes as “less evil” than Bank of America, banks that do not invest in DAPL.
These banks include: First Republic Bank, Silicon Valley Bank, East West Bank, Umpqua, Pacific Western Bank, First Bank, Cathay Bank, Sterling Bank and Trust, Westamerica Bank, Bank of Marin, Far East National Bank, Metropolitan Bank, Bank of the Orient, Preferred Bank, Mechanics Bank, and Presidio Bank.
Bank of America is already at risk of losing its contract with the San Francisco because of an ordinance passed in October 2016, which prohibits city agencies from doing business with companies headquartered in “anti-LGBTQ” states.
If Bank of America maintains its headquarters in North Carolina, and North Carolina continues its anti-trans policies, the city will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a new cash management contractor.
“As long as we depend on big banks to manage and invest taxpayer money, we are risking not only indigenous rights, but also trans rights and the human rights of undocumented immigrants, incarcerated people, and poor black and brown people yet to be incarcerated,” a statement from the coalition read.
Coalition member Trevor Martin cautioned what it would mean for the city to remain with Bank of America.
“You are complicit in the murder and genocide of the people, you are complicit in the destruction of the planet, you are complicit in the annihilation of even the possibility of a clean and healthy future for our children,” Martin told the board before its vote.
Throughout public comment, participants raised both hands and waved in peaceful solidarity. Upon unanimous approval of the resolution, members cheered, cried, and thanked the supervisors for their votes.
While this was a pivotal moment for the group, participants realize this resolution is a small first step in an uphill battle.
“We won’t be celebrating until we actually see the treasurer divest at least $1 billion worth of DAPL related investments,” said Fielders.