Bread and Puppet Theatre put on a protest performance inside the TD Bank branch in Montpelier Wednesday which culminated in a woman closing her account of nearly $500,000 because of the bank’s involvement in fossil fuel pipelines.
Several dozen people gathered at City Hall before marching down to the bank at the corner of State Street and Main Street. Once inside it was standing room only with the lobby packed with people. The performance was peaceful with police asking that no one take pictures inside the bank at the bank’s request.
Skits were performed where the government and business men were portrayed as greedy people trying to capture all of the planet’s resources. The only dicey part came at the end where a song was sung, talking about throwing a brick through the bank’s office window and a bank employee was overheard telling police the performance needed to end.
The performance was in part to protest Vermont Gas’ plan to build a natural gas pipeline in Addison County, but the major focus was on another pipeline in the works in Midwest: the Dakota Access Pipeline. That pipeline would run crude oil from North Dakota down into Illinois.
Critics of the pipeline say the plans call for it to pass through the tribal lands of a Native American tribe, the Standing Rock Sioux. They also say it would pass under the Missouri River causing concern about what damage an oil spill there would cause.
People in North Dakota are currently protesting construction of the pipeline, and earlier this month the Obama Administration put a temporary stop on construction as it considers the tribe’s concerns.
Along with theater group from Glover, the performance was sponsored by Central Vermont Climate Action, a working group of 350VT. Protesters at Wednesday’s event in Montpelier say TD Bank is helping create both pipelines as it is funding the pipeline via loans.
Jane Pekol, of Northfield, is one of the organizers for CVCA. Pekol said the North Dakota pipeline violates treaty rights.
“We can’t all make it to North Dakota to stand with Standing Rock, but we figure we can all make it to TD (Bank),” she said.
Pekol said the protest is trying to expose that banks like TD Bank finance dirty energy projects. She said they are making money on projects that guarantee the planet’s destruction.
“Banks have a choice in what they finance,” she said. “We’d like them to stop banking against the planet, banking against the Standing Rock Sioux and banking against Vermont.”
Jennifer LeStat, of Worcester, said she came out to take part in the protest because she wanted to support the Native American tribe and because she cares about water quality. LeStat said she moved to Vermont from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, partially because of this state’s stricter laws about protecting water. She added that she was also married to a Native American in the past.
LeStat hoped Wednesday’s protest would show people how concerned and worried they are about the pipeline in North Dakota.
After the performance at the bank, Lynn Furno, of Hinesburg, walked up to one of the tellers and announced that she wanted to close her account there. Furno said she had about $500,000 in the bank which was her inheritance.
She said the money came from Canada so she was told by her family to use TD Bank as they have ties in that country and the transfer would be easier. Once she found out the bank’s involvement in the pipelines she said she wanted her money out.
This story was originally published by the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and is republished here under a partnership with the newspaper.