UKIAH, 12/21/16 — As the “water protectors” continue to camp out at Standing Rock, North Dakota, and events go on across the country in support of their actions, activists have struck upon an old tactic to apply pressure for their cause: divestment. For this purpose, over 60 people gathered in Alex Thomas Plaza in Ukiah on Dec. 21 to show their support of the Standing Rock activists. The “Behead the Black Snake” solstice event featured a large snake puppet stretching down the block, prayers and dances, and singing outside three national banks which are invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Five people withdrew money including Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo, removing more than $145,000 from their accounts.
Mendocino residents have now withdrawn more than a quarter million dollars from these banks in the last month, as the Dec. 21 action followed a similar action on Nov. 30 and in coordination with national protests resulting in more than $28 million withdrawn from personal accounts. A divestment event at Wells Fargo’s San Francisco global HQ on Dec. 16 attracted hundreds of activists highlighting the protests at Standing Rock.
The divestment actions are intended to put pressure on national bank chains invested in the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, planned to carry petroleum across a swatch of the upper Midwest. Tribal members from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and their supporters fear the pipeline could endanger the health of their water, prompting a massive multi-month protest which has drawn international support. Many residents of Mendocino have found ways to participate, travel to or support the cause, including by organizing a flurry of events around the county. Ongoing meetings have been taking place in Ukiah and Laytonville, see more details below.
The “black snake puppet” was created by members of the “Mendo Stands with Standing Rock” group on Dec. 18 at the Mendocino Environmental Center, where ongoing meetings are held to coordinate support for Standing Rock. The black snake is a reference to the proposed oil pipeline as well as a Lakota prophecy that tells of a black snake that will bring destruction.
During the divestment action, the snake puppet was hoisted up and carried around downtown Ukiah as local activists sang outside the banks. Other activists carried “Mendo Stands with Standing Rock” signs and banners urging others to divest from Wells Fargo and the pipeline project. The group also gathered in a large circle at Alex Thomas Plaza to say a prayer for those gathered at Standing Rock and to protect the waters of the earth. Roundhouse dancers from Lake County also performed a dance in support of the action. One girl wore a dress that had been created and blessed by her Lakota relatives in North Dakota to show her support for the activists there.
Local journalist Will Parrish, who helped organize the action, reported that “one person pulled $108,000 from Chase, three people collectively pulled $37,050 from Wells Fargo and closed three accounts, and one person closed a BoA [Bank of America] account and withdrew an undisclosed amount.” Mendocino residents previously withdrew $36,200 from Wells Fargo and $76,00 from Chase Bank during the previous divestment action on Nov. 30, bringing the total to over $250,000 from Mendocino divestments alone.
Several of the locals who chose to withdraw their funds were filmed discussing why they chose to take that action. Here’s some videos from the Nov. 30 action, shot by Rain Tenaqiya:
Here's another Nov. 30 video by Tenaqiya:
This past Wednesday Another woman spoke about why she withdrew funds this past Wednesday while standing with the black snake puppet on State Street in Ukiah, while cars drove by honking their approval. Here’s a video shot by Heidi Noatak Anton, you can hear cars honking their support in the background:
Here’s some more photos of the event:
Other fundraising events around the county demonstrate the efforts of Mendocino residents to provide financial and material support for the Standing Rock “water protectors.” Over two truckloads of supplies and over $5,000 were donated at an October fundraiser at the Redwood Valley Guild, and a “Mendo Moves for Standing Rock” all day event in Fort Bragg raised over $30,000 for the activists. A music and poetry fundraising event in Willits on Dec. 22, featuring local poets and musicians, also raised money for Standing Rock.
At an event at the Willits library on Dec. 14, Cahto tribe member Atta Stevenson shared her stories of visiting Standing Rock with around 20 locals, emphasizing the importance of providing support that fits the current needs of the campers. Stevenson explained she had spent her visits assisting in any way she could, whether it was washing dishes, herding the camp dogs away from the kitchen, or sitting and praying with elders who needed company.
Noting the extreme winter temperatures, she warned Mendocino residents thinking of visiting to only go if they were able to be self-sufficient in sub-freezing winter conditions. Stevenson and a Laytonville teacher were planning to return on Dec. 19 with a carload of financial donations and gift cards so they could purchase whatever supplies were needed on their arrival. She said she was planning to provide regular updates from the camps to KPFN in Laytonville and would stay as long as she was needed. Stevenson also emphasized the importance of coordinating efforts around the county, so that locals could better address the needs of water protectors by not duplicating efforts or supply donations.
Here’s how you get connected with local organizing efforts:
UKIAH – Ongoing meetings on Mondays at 5:30pm, at the Mendocino Environmental Center, 106 W. Standley St. in Ukiah. More information available on the “Mendo Stands with Standing Rock” Facebook page. Some events are also being posted at https://mendonodapl.wordpress.com/.
LAYTONVILLE — Regular meetings on Wednesdays at the Long Valley Garden Club, 375 Harwood Road. Check to see if it’s happening this week by connecting with the “Long Valley Stands for Standing Rock” Facebook page. More information is available by calling Hana at 707-867-1717. A fundraising event in being planned for January or February.