Hundreds of anti-pipeline demonstrators chanted and waved signs outside of Seattle’s City Hall early Wednesday, before dozens crowded in to council chambers to testify in front of Seattle’s Finance Committee. They urged swift passage of an ordinance that would pull $3 billion from Wells Fargo Bank, in large part because of its role in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The measure passed out of committee with a vote of 8-0. It directs the city to divest from Wells Fargo by ending its current contract when it expires in 2018. It would also direct Seattle officials to refrain from making new investments in Wells Fargo securities for a period of three years.
“Wells Fargo has not in any way matched the values of this city,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who is a co-sponsor of the ordinance and has championed the cause of the demonstrators. She echoed many of their concerns, which include everything from the bank’s recent fraud scandal to its investments in private prisons.
But there was special urgency around Wells Fargo’s involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline. This week the Trump administration ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to push ahead with the last easement needed to finish the pipeline.
Sawant said the protest movement has been growing and needs to continue to grow, “with equal and maybe even greater speed.”
“And the example that Seattle can set today by voting on this legislation today can be a beacon of hope to activists all around the country,” she said before the vote, to a room full of applause.
All of the testimony was in favor of passing the ordinance and many of the protestors said Seattle should set an example for other cities and governments around the country.
“More than ever the city of Seattle needs to be a true environmental leader, aligning its money with its values,” said Eli Crawford, an organizer with the climate action group 350 Seattle.
“Let us send a clear message today — not just to Wells Fargo, but to all big banks — that if you fund projects to destroy our climate and abuse our communities, we will not support you,” Crawford said.
The ordinance, which goes before the full council for a vote on Monday, also strengthens the city’s policies for selecting future contract partners that are committed to fair business practices.
In a statement, Wells Fargo spokesman David Kennedy said the bank is proud of the support it has provided to the city since 1999. He noted that Wells Fargo is one of 17 financial institutions involved in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline and that its loans represent less than 5 percent of the total.