Seattle could pull billions of dollars out of its longtime bank because of its role in the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. On Wednesday, a Seattle City Council committee voted unanimously to divest nearly $3 billion of the city’s funds from Wells Fargo, one of 17 financial institutions involved in financing the contentious project. Although the bill still has to undergo a procedural vote by the full council on Tuesday, it is “widely expected to pass,” activist Shaun King wrote in the Daily News. During the hearing, councilwoman Debora Juarez said that committee members all agreed that divestment was the city’s “goal.”
Should the legislation push through, Seattle will not renew its contract with Wells Fargo when it expires in 2018. Neither will the city be allowed to make new investments with the bank for three years.
The proposal would be a major victory for the pipeline’s opponents, who returned to the site of last year’s monthslong protests at Standing Rock after President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the 1,000-mile-long oil pipeline.
“You faced down attack dogs, blizzards and rubber bullets,” councilwoman Kshama Sawant, who co-sponsored the bill, told a crowd on Wednesday, referring to the thousands of Native Americans and activists who faced off with law enforcement during last year’s standoff. “If we do not fight we will not win.”
“Let’s build on this, make sure other cities move to divest from Wells Fargo,” she added.
Jessica Ong, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, said that the bank respects “all the views” being expressed in the dispute, including those of the Seattle City Council members.
“We are obligated to fulfill our legal obligations as outlined under the credit agreement,” she said. “That being said, we remain respectful of the concerns being expressed by tribal governments and communities, other groups, and individuals.”
Meanwhile, in North Dakota, hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police in riot gear in 14-degree weather. A “rogue group” of 76 protestors who illegally set up camp on private property was arrested and taken to local jails, according to authorities.
“After repeated warnings to vacate a camp being illegally set up on private property in southern Morton County, south of Backwater Bridge, approximately 76 members of a rogue group of protesters were arrested by law enforcement officials today,” the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release.