Eye on the Amazon

Oakland Moves To Divest from Banks Violating Indigenous Sovereignty

Photo credit: Shauna Tegan


Oakland Votes To Cut Ties With Wall Street!

We did it! Last night, the Oakland City Council unanimously voted to adopt language to require all banks wishing to provide banking services to disclose any investments that support the Dakota Access Pipeline, mass incarceration, or any project that violate Indigenous sovereignty.

Together, we sent a message to Wall Street loud and clear that Oakland will no longer be complicit in profiting from the criminalization of people of color and immigrants, violation of Indigenous rights, and the exacerbation of climate change.

Our work is far from over. While we celebrate this victory today, we also continue to strategize on the next steps to ensure justice to communities from Standing Rock to the Amazon and future generations who deserve to inherit a thriving climate.

Thank you for standing with us!

While President Trump continues to impede progress towards battling climate change, the City of Oakland – Amazon Watch's hometown – took an important step yesterday toward divesting city funds from banks that fund fossil fuels, violation of Indigenous sovereignty, and mass incarceration.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council's Finance and Management Committee adopted an amendment to the Linked Banking Services Ordinance that will require that any bank seeking to provide depository services to the City of Oakland disclose investments that support the Dakota Access Pipeline, violate Indigenous sovereignty, or support mass incarceration. Currently, the city banks with JPMorgan Chase, one of the funders of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The full Council is set to vote on the ordinance at its next meeting, to take place sometime in the next two weeks.

Yesterday's vote is not a full victory in that the amendment's language does not automatically exclude these banks from providing depository services to the City, but rather requires a careful and transparent vetting process. Nonetheless, it is a major step towards advancing Indigenous rights and withdrawing support from institutions that have financed racial and economic injustices.

The vote resulted from active pressure – including emails sent by many of you – led by the local organization Defenders of Mother Earth-Huichin (DOME-Huichin). "Many of our coalition members went to Standing Rock to support the water protectors there," said Indigenous elder, Oakland resident, and DOME-Huichin leader Patricia St. Onge. "As we returned to our communities, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe gave clear instructions to come home and work on divestment. DOME-Huichin is one response to that invitation. We're pleased that the Oakland Finance and Management Committee arrived at this decision with good minds and hearts. We anticipate the full Council will do the same."

As the amendment moves toward a vote by the full council, DOME-Huichin will hold the City of Oakland accountable to the commitment it made yesterday and encourage it to end its banking relationship with JPMorgan Chase and other financiers of colonization and displacement.

"Racism, colonialism, and blindness to the catastrophe of environmental destruction are intricately and deeply entwined in the financial institutions that the City does business with," said Wilson Riles, former Oakland City Council Member and DOME-Huichin member. "This must be challenged and rejected even if it makes us uncomfortable and unable to do things as usual."

Amazon Watch, for its part, will continue to support DOME-Huichin in its work to ensure all institutions the city engages with reflect the its values. With so much at stake for our climate, it is necessary to explore alternatives and reshape the banking system in the U.S. in order to transition from an extractive and exploitative economic system to one that is invested in the resiliency of local communities.

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