Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

About 100 protesters marched downtown Friday to City Hall, demanding that Los Angeles cut its financial ties with Wells Fargo bank because of its investment in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

Last month, the Seattle City Council voted to end its banking contract with Wells Fargo when it expires in 2018 due to its financial support of the project.

The cities of Davis and Santa Monica in California have made similar moves.

“We come here to call upon Los Angeles to divest its money from Wells Fargo,” UCLA student and Native American activist Shannon Rivers, who addressed the crowd, told City News Service. “We need to consider how we respond and act in a capitalistic society, how we constantly destroy and pollute Mother Earth. Our air is poisoned, and we need to respond and act differently.”

The protesters, formed from a coalition of activist groups, began at Pershing Square and stopped outside a downtown Wells Fargo location before ending the march at City Hall.

The nearly completed oil pipeline runs more than 1,100 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, and sparked a major protest that lasted for months near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Members of the tribe opposed the project because they said it passed over sacred burial ground and because it would threaten their water source.

After pipeline construction was halted in November by the Army Corps of Engineers, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January instructing the agency to finish the project.

Oil is expected to start flowing through the pipeline possibly within a few days.

The pipeline cost an estimated $3.78 billion to build.

Wells Fargo said in a February statement that it is not the lead bank on the project, and is merely one of 17 financial institutions that made a loan to the developers of the pipeline. The company said it lent $120 million to the project.

A representative with the office of interim city Chief Administrative Officer Richard Llewellyn said the city does have some of its money tied up in Wells Fargo banks, but only the Office of Finance would know how much. Todd Bouey, assistant director of finance for the Office of Finance, did not respond to a request to comment.

“The mayor opposes the pipeline and has a long history of pushing for ethical investments of the city’s money,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti’s press secretary, Carl Marziali, when asked to comment on the protest.

Garcetti co-signed a letter with several other mayors — including Edward B. Murray of Seattle — that was sent to then-President Barack Obama in October 2016 asking him to halt the project until a full environmental and cultural review could be completed.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, a member of the Wyandotte Native American tribe, did not respond to a request to comment.

O’Farrell has supported other Native American causes, including a proposal for the city to swap its recognition of Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.

The city of Los Angeles holds the second largest number of Native Americans among all U.S. cities, more than 54,000, according to the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission.

Los Angeles already has a somewhat contentious relationship with Wells Fargo. In September, the company agreed to pay $50 million in penalties to the city and county of Los Angeles, and restitution to customers, as part of a settlement resolving litigation alleging the company opened up bank accounts without customers’ permission

— City News Service

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