Last week, a series of protests downtown and on campus made headlines in Ithaca, culminating in the arrest of 12 individuals who refused to leave a downtown bank.
On Wednesday and Thursday last week, downtown protesters denounced a pipeline being built on indigenous Wet’suwet’en land by the TransCanada Corporation –– a contentious issue that has captured media attention across North America over the last several months.
On Thursday afternoon, individuals affiliated with the Ithaca chapter of Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement, occupied the downtown branch of Chase Bank on East State Street, in protest of the financier’s backing of oil companies.
JPMorgan Chase, Chase Bank’s owner, is one of the world’s largest providers of fossil fuel financing, drawing the ire of activists who say that the corporation’s lending policies contribute to climate change.
Earlier in the week, the group presented a long letter to Chase demanding that the company reduce its role in the funding of what it called “ecocide” and “what amounts to genocide.”
But, according to John Burger, a steward in Ithaca College’s contingent faculty union and one of the letter’s signatories, the message was left unanswered by Chase. This silence prompted the group’s occupation of the bank on Thursday, which ultimately led to the arrest of eight adults and four juveniles.
On the same day as the arrests, Cornell students from the undergraduate organization Climate Justice Cornell also called for the University to divest from fossil fuels, staging a protest that included temporarily blocking traffic and holding a mock “wedding.”
Both groups announced their solidarity during the protests.
Alyssa Marcy grad, also a member of Extinction Rebellion Ithaca, was one of the 12 arrested on Thursday.
Marcy told The Sun that the managerial staff at Ithaca’s Chase Bank “refused to negotiate after about 30 minutes”. She referred to the Ithaca protests as a “success,” as Chase eventually did issue a statement addressing them, though Marcy called the “broad and vague response” ultimately disappointing.
She noted that moments like these underscore how difficult it is for regular citizens to engage with huge companies like Chase.
Justin Page, a media representative for JPMorgan Chase, said that Chase is “reviewing the letter and will respond to the group”. He added that, last week, JPMorgan Chase joined the Climate Leadership Council, a think-tank that advocates for a nation-wide carbon tax, and also pointed to numerous efforts by which it is combating climate change.
“[The statement] wasn’t a response at all. It was a piece of propaganda. That clearly was not what we were asking for,” Burger said. “It’s disrespectful.”
The fight persists as protestors and community members continue to advocate for their cause.
“Ultimately, we just have to keep pushing and keep issues like this at the forefront of people’s minds,” Marcy said.