Protesters Lock Themselves In At Wells Fargo Downtown To Stand With Standing Rock

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Courtesy Bmore Bloc/Twitter
Courtesy Bmore Bloc/Twitter

A Friday morning showing of solidarity among Baltimoreans for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe evolved into a tense lock-in at the Wells Fargo building downtown.

Protesters were seen marching up Pratt Street downtown against oncoming traffic en route to the Wells Fargo building early Friday afternoon. Crowd members chanted messages of support for those holding their ground at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota more than 1,500 miles away.

There, people have camped themselves on the reservation in a show of resistance to Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ construction of the 1,172-mile underground Dakota Access Pipeline straight through the territory, which the Sioux tribe considers to be sacred land. Over the last couple months, the effort has made national headlines, with protesters facing mass arrests and violent confrontations with riot gear-clad police who have been trying to evict the group so builders can proceed.

Here in Baltimore, the group targeted Wells Fargo because the firm is one of several providing $2.5 billion in loans for the project, per The New York Times.

In the lobby of the building on Friday, a group chanted in unison, “Protect the water, defund the pipeline!” Three members then sat down on the floor and linked themselves together with bike locks. Over the course of the afternoon, police ordered the crowd to disperse, got most of the protesters outside the building and had security lock the glass doors.

Inside remained a small contingent, including the chained-together trio. A police spokesman later said in an email that officers arrested six people inside for trespassing. Video from the scene showed police had thrown a sheet over the three chained-together protesters while fire department units worked to remove the locks from their necks.

Across the country, people have taken up resistance against the pipeline as a cause for several reasons. From a broad view, environmentalists say it simply further fuels human consumption of fossil fuels during a time when the world is working to cut back on carbon emissions to protect the planet. Many are also showing support for the Sioux tribe in North Dakota, whose water supply would be forever threatened by any spill from the planned pipeline.

Supporters of the pipeline, meanwhile, argue it could reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil reserves by tapping into new sources of oil on this continent.

Wells Fargo’s spokesman told CNN earlier this month that the firm works “only with companies that have demonstrated a strong, ongoing commitment to complying with all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations.”

People don’t seem to be buying that as a protection against the tribe or the environment, however. Protests targeted at Wells Fargo have now popped in cities across the country, including Seattle, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee and now Baltimore.

Update: According to activist group Baltimore Bloc (and as reported by Brandon Soderberg of City Paper), one of the six people arrested on Friday faces additional charges of disorderly conduct, failure to obey a police officer, disturbing the peace and resisting arrest.

Ethan McLeod
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