August 13, 2007
***5 arrested protesting Bank of America’s investments in coal and climate change***
As a culmination of the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action, activists took a bold direct action against Bank of America over concerns regarding their investment throughout the coal cycle and their promotion of climate injustice. Although there was much speculation regarding a protest action at the Progress Energy Skyland coal-fired power plant, protestors surprised the downtown office of Bank of America.
Two activists locked down inside the main lobby and other activists blockaded the entrance to the downtown branch of Bank of America. The protest included a large, lively group of concerned citizens dressed as canaries and polar bears. Activists carried signs and banners that read: “Bank of America Stop Funding Climate Change,” “Bank of America Stop Mountaintop Removal,” “No Coal, No Nukes, No Kidding” “Bank of America Climate Criminal.”
Bank of America has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to companies that run and are planning to build new power plants, such as Florida Power and Light. Between 2005 and 2007, Bank of America facilitated nearly $1 billion in loans to Massey Energy and Arch Coal, two of the largest companies responsible for the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. This form of mining literally blasts the tops off of mountains to get at thin seems of coal that lay beneath. Mountaintop removal coal mining has permanently destroyed over 500 square miles of mountains and buried over 1,200 miles of streams in West Virginia alone.
As of 2005, Progress Energy’s Skyland was the fifth largest purchaser of Massey Energy’s coal. Progress Energy’s Skyland plant is a purchaser and burner of mountaintop removal coal as well as the largest point source of pollution in Buncombe County.
The Southeast Convergence for Climate Action aimed to promote a just, rapid, nuclear-free transition away from fossil fuels; to promote environmental justice by supporting communities that are fighting dirty energy developments in their backyards; and to encourage direct actions as a means for challenging corporate power and empowering movements to stop climate change.
“I attended the convergence to build my skills for organizing and taking action on climate change,” said Joey Littleton, a convergence participant. “This is a great place to network-there are activists from all over the southeast region with a wide breadth of experience on environment and social justice issues. I enjoyed the strategy sessions; I came here to get involved with the movement to stop climate change.”
The Southeast Convergence for Climate Action is happening simultaneously with a Climate Convergence on the west coast focused on fighting liquefied natural gas terminals, and in conjunction with the UK Camp for Climate Action taking place at London’s Heathrow airport.
“Globally and locally, change will come from communities, not from benign politicians and corporations who hope to profit off the climate crisis with feel-good Ã¢â‚¬Ëœsolutions’ that do nothing to challenge a fundamentally unjust and unsustainable system,” said Mary Olson, director of the Southeast office of Nuclear Information and Resource Service and co-organizer of the convergence.
Today a massive police operation was deployed in Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania Counties to prevent activists from protesting a dirty power plant responsible for climate change. Dozens of uniformed and undercover cops surrounded the site of the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action as a police helicopter hovered over the site.
In addition, dozens more police were deployed at Progress Energy’s Skyland coal power plant to prevent legitimate protest against dirty energy and climate change. “This shows which side of the climate debate the government is on. They have spent tens of thousands of dollars to protect the coal industry today. Clearly if the government wanted to address climate change, they would be sending the police in to arrest the heads of Progress Energy for perpetuating the greatest threat humanity has ever faced – climate change,” an anonymous polar bear said.###
We would like to clarify statements that were made about the Asheville Police Department (APD) using tazers against participants in the action against climate change and mountaintop removal at Bank of America yesterday.
The Climate Convergence sent out a press release saying that people locked down inside the bank were subject to electrocution shocks from tazers, based on the accounts of witnesses inside the bank. Now that the protestors are out of jail, we have learned that this was an inaccurate conclusion based on reasonable suspicion. One protester was heard screaming while pinned down by large group of officers and subjected to excruciating pain compliance holds right after the police were heard yelling back and forth to each asking “Who has a tazer? Get a tazer!” Many of the officers on the scene were equipped with electrocution devises, along with rubber bullets, chemical weapons, dogs, and training in torture techniques. In addition, a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who attempted to check on the safety of the protesters after hearing shouts from officers about tazers was not allowed to do so.
The APD has a history of using tazers, widely recognized as a form of torture and the cause of several deaths around the country, on nonviolent protesters. In light of increased use of paramilitary tactics by local police forces in civilian situations, such conclusions are to be expected. We reported information we thought to be accurate at the time; in light of new information, we apologize for any inaccuracies we reported.
In Defense of a Living Planet,
Additionally, the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action made the following statement:
List of Demands
Recognizing that climate change is already here, we hold corporations and governments accountable for the effects on communities, people and the living earth. Therefore, we demand:
- That Bank of America completely divest from the coal industry and other dirty, climate-changing energy companies.
- A 90% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- An immediate halt to any plans for new nuclear and coal power plants and a complete redirection of research and development money toward conservation, efficiency and clean, renewable energy projects.
- An immediate end to mountaintop removal coal mining and other forms of strip mining.
- A just, rapid transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear power by 2020.
- A shift to community controlled, small-scale systems of energy production, transportation, and food production and distribution.
- An end to the privatization of the atmosphere through market-based mechanisms such as carbon trading.
- Climate Justice Now!