At a mock crime scene made up of yellow caution tape and chunks of coal, passersby seeking a campus or Isla Vista ATM were instead met by a small protest urging Citibank and Bank of America to stop allegedly investing in coal-fired plants.
At the Bank of America ATMs located in the Arbor and in I.V., protesters asked students, visitors and residents to sign a petition requesting that the two banks invest more in renewable energy sources. Volunteers from Campus Progress, CalPIRG and Campus Democrats organized the event as part of the National Day of Action Against Coal which was part of the Global Finance Campaign, organized by the Rainforest Action Network – an environmental activist group that campaigns with various groups in 60 countries.
Although police made little contact with the protesters, the activists were advised to take down the caution tape across the front of the ATM. Additionally, two representatives from Bank of America were sent from Los Angeles to monitor the proceedings.
Third-year global studies major Liam Keane said he found the situation intriguing due to I.V.’s history with Bank of America. On Feb. 25, 1970, a large riot broke out in I.V. after protesters clashed with police on their way to a rally at Perfect Park. While the rally’s purpose was unrelated to the bank, the conflict escalated as students began hurling rocks at police who retaliated with batons. By the end of the night, the bank was burned down.
“It’s kind of ironic that in 1970 students burned Bank of America to the ground after disagreements with the police and now, in 2007, Bank of America brings the police with them when a flier is taped to their ATM,” Keane said.
However, fourth-year business economics major Henry Elyashar said he disagreed with the protesters’ tactics.
“The way I see it is Bank Of America has plenty of right to invest in coal,” Elyashar said. “They should invest in both coal and renewable energy. All types of energy that are getting us off of foreign oil are good. Coal, nuclear, renewable – they’re all good.”
Third-year environmental studies and political science major Chrissy Elles said she hopes the protest influences the banks to reconsider their alleged business practices.
“We have the technology available now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we need to be putting pressure on corporations to be making the right decisions,” Elles said.
RAN’s Web site alleges that Bank of America and Citibank are leading financiers in the construction of more than 150 coal-fired power plants, which would release between 600 million and 1.1 billion tons of additional CO2 emissions every year – the same as putting 100 to 180 million new passenger cars on the road.
In May 2007, Citibank pledged to “direct $50 billion over the next 10 years to address global climate change through investments.” Additionally, Bank of America has pledged to donate funds toward preventing climate change.
Second-year political science major Jordan Haedtler said activists will continue to push banks and other institutions to invest more money concerning environmental policies.
“To stem the tide against global warming we are going to need to start focusing on private investment and every dollar that is invested in dirty coal is a dollar that could be invested in clean renewable energy,” Haedtler said.
Representatives from Bank of America were not available for comment and Citibank representatives declined to comment as well.
Elles said she believed the protest was successful.
“We had about 75 signatures and the fact that two Bank of America representatives showed up from L.A., in itself, speaks volumes for the movement,” she said.