UA community protests Wells Fargo, DAPL on UA Mall
Two protesters showcase their signs during the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline on Feb. 2. The protest is aimed at Wells Fargo, which has been supporting the construction of the pipeline.
A group of students and community members gathered on the UA Mall on Feb. 10, chanting “water is life,” to demand the UA divest from Wells Fargo bank, a financier of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Today we are announcing the launch of a campaign to get the UA to divest from Wells Fargo, to end its contract and end its relationship,” said Magdalena Rios, a member of the Chukson/Tucson Water Protectors.
The campaign, which will involve marches, rallies and teach-ins, plans to show solidarity with members of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and pressure the Arizona Board of Regents and the UA to end relationships will all organizations supporting damaging projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Water is life for all of us, and the sovereign rights of Native Americans have been violated, and when their rights are violated mine and your rights are violated,” said Najima Rainey, a representative of Tucson’s Black Lives Matter.
Rainey told the crowd the future will need water more than corporations or corporate interests and demanded the UA take a stand.
“This isn’t just an institution for people to learn something and leave to get a job,” Rainey said. “This is a place where we shape young people to mean something and bring something into this world.”
According to Rainey, no university should conduct businesses with institutions who have forgotten we are all human beings.
The protests come in response to two recent executive orders signed by President Donald Trump, which grant approval for the construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.
The orders directly contrast efforts by former President Barack Obama to halt construction of the pipelines in coordination with massive public dissent against the pipelines.
Protesters have renewed their efforts to amplify the voice of their concern following statements made by Trump on Tuesday, Feb. 7, that he neither believes the pipelines are controversial, nor has he received phone calls condemning the pipeline.
State Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, told the crowd, “I stand here with you to continue the fight because this fight is important.”
Gonzales wants to fight for clean air and water in order to secure the future for her children and her community.
“It is the greed that money brings to people that make them think they are allowed to do this to anybody here in the United States,” Gonzales said of the pipeline.
She plans to continue to fight for the rights of indigenous communities and all Arizonans at the state legislature.
“Are you devoted to your students, the future of this country, or are you devoted to money and just the ones who can pay?” Rios asked the UA.
Rios remains devoted to organizing a fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline on the UA campus and believes the cause will succeed no matter how long it takes because water does not know time.
Michelle Cook, a UA alumna from the Gender and Women’s studies program, travelled to the protest site at Standing Rock in North Dakota. She said the UA prides itself on being one of the first institutions to offer a program focused on Native American studies.
“Now, is the university going to contribute to the destruction of indigenous people by funding a bank that is responsible for gross human rights violations?” Cook asked.
Cook described images of individuals covered in bite marks from dogs from her time protesting the pipeline in North Dakota.
Cook called on everyone on the mall to join the resistance and cut off the money funding projects endangering the environment and violating the rights of indigenous communities.
The UA also has a relationship with Bank of America, another financier of the Dakota Access Pipeline. JPMorgan Chase, Citi Bank, and 14 other banks provided capital for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Seattle City Council recently voted to divest from Wells Fargo over Dakota Access Pipeline concerns. Rios demanded UA do the same and put human beings before their financial relationships.
Follow Randall Eck on Twitter.