Eight arrested as protesters pressure TD Bank

Protesters outside the TD Bank in Montpelier. VTDigger Photo by Jasper Craven.

Protesters outside the TD Bank in Montpelier. VTDigger Photo by Jasper Craven.

MONTPELIER — The day after the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers denied a key construction permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline, roughly 100 protesters gathered at two TD Bank locations on Main Street to demand the national bank halt its financial relationship with the energy company building the controversial pipeline.

The Vermont protests — which were organized by three community groups as part of a national call to action — also demanded the state of Vermont cut ties with TD Bank, which is the state’s bank of record. One of the bank locations was closed by the protests. The other didn’t open because of bad weather. Eight arrests were made. Traffic was unaffected.

“Not many Vermonters know, but the state treasurer has put $193 million of our taxpayer dollars into TD Bank, and TD Bank has invested in the pipeline” said Catherine Cadden, a protest organizer from Jeffersonville. “I don’t think any Vermonter that I know is going to want to have any investment that funds genocide, funds human rights violations and indigenous rights violations.”

In a Monday statement, the Treasurer’s Office said the state entered into a banking services contract with TD Bank in 2010 after fielding proposals, and that the state is currently reviewing banking options as the 2010 contract will soon expire.

“We are currently conducting a competitive bid process for banking services and are therefore limited in information we can provide at this time,” the statement reads. “When that process is completed and a contract has been awarded and fully executed, Treasurer Pearce will be happy to sit down with interested parties to discuss the decision-making process.”

As snowflakes fell to the ground, protesters chanted “I stand with the future of this land” and held homemade signs with messages, including “People over Pipelines.” A hot community lunch of pasta was given to the congregation, who remained peaceful.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Member Beverly Little Thunder, a Vermont resident, smoked a peace pipe on Main Street as she spoke of the incredible solidarity between Vermont and tribal elders in North Dakota.

“I want us to remember all of those who are in Standing Rock right now,” Little Thunder said. “It’s so fitting that we stand here with snowflakes falling on the pipe, because that is the way our people are praying in Standing Rock.”

Anti-pipeline protests in North Dakota have been percolating for months, and were spearheaded by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose land was in the proposed pipeline path. Roughly 70 Vermonters traveled to the site in November, many of whom were carpenters and tradespeople who helped winterize shelters.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been urging President Barack Obama to designate the Standing Rock Sioux land as a federal monument for weeks, and he attended a pipeline protest outside the White House in November.

“We are not going silently into the night,” Sanders said during the Nov. 16 protest. “The stakes are too high for the future of this planet. We are going to be smart. We’re going to educate. We’re going to organize.”

Sunday’s decision by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers denied a crucial permit sought by the company to drill beneath the Missouri River — a federal waterway. The agency also ordered a comprehensive environmental impact study on the proposed pipeline path, which could take years to complete.

But while the Army’s decision to block the permit was seen as a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux, President-elect Donald Trump could overturn the federal government’s recent decision. In recent days, Trump has suggested that he supports the original route, which cuts through tribal land. (Trump used to own stock in the Dakota Access parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, but dropped it last summer, according to the Washington Post.)

A protester outside TD Bank in Montpelier. VTDigger Photo by Jasper Craven.

A protester outside TD Bank in Montpelier. VTDigger Photo by Jasper Craven.

Vermont organizer Cadden — who spent much of October and November at the Dakota protest site — said the pressure will not let up once Trump enters office.

“This is a victory, but we will keep our boots on,” Cadden said. “No one is going anywhere at Standing Rock, they are going to stay through the winter. We do have a new president coming in in January, so the fight continues.”

A group formed a human chain to block off the drive-up ATM on the corner of Main and School Streets, while others rallied outside the larger Main Street location.

Police officers from various departments overlooked the protests, including the Vermont State Police and Montpelier Police.

Montpelier Police Chief Tony Facos — who met with protesters at the Christ Church shortly before 9 a.m. — said eight people who entered the bank were arrested and charged with unlawful trespassing.

Judith Schmidt, head of Corporate Media Relations at TD Bank, said: “We support efforts to ensure the sustainability and safety of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) site. And we respect the rights of those who wish to voice their opinions in peaceful protest.”

Hugh Hawkins, a service worker at the Capitol City car dealership in Berlin, said that he was frustrated that protesters had made it impossible for him to deposit money in the dealership’s TD Bank account.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience, thank you for bearing with us today,” protest coordinator Erik Gillard said to Hawkins. “It’s really not about putting pressure on you, it’s about pressuring the state of Vermont to divest funds. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

Hawkins replied that “shutting down commerce isn’t constructive.”

“The oil is going to come out of the ground, the oil is going to be burned,” Hawkins told Gillard. “Why don’t you people do something constructive?”

Jasper Craven

Jasper Craven is VTDigger’s political reporter. A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. Read more

Email: jcraven@vtdigger.org

Follow Jasper on Twitter @Jasper_Craven

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  • Randy Koch

    The treasurer should make sure that ethical criteria “trump” others when choosing which bank the state should stay with. Maybe the treasurer will want to outline what exactly are these criteria now and whether any changes are being contemplated as a result of this protest.

  • Sorry for the inconvenience in making your deposit Mr Hawkins BUT try to look at the bigger picture……no water = no life

    • Tom Grout

      I got a remedy. Fasten the protesters to the ATM some Sunday winter day.Mr. hawkins should take the protester blocking him to small claims court for the interest he lost on his account that day and the extra trip to perform the deposit. if he has trouble going to small claims court i will foot the bill.

  • Rep. Steve Berry

    There is warrant for the Treasurer’s Office to review Vermont’s banking services contract with TD Bank as the 2010 contract will soon expire but Treasurer Beth Pearce must do more. She needs to look at all issues involving Vermont’s support of banks and companies that are funding corporations that are putting profits above people. It is not good enough for the Office of the Treasurer to state it is “ currently conducting a competitive bid process for banking services and are therefore limited in information we can provide at this time.”
    There should be public hearings. We should all be informed and have an opportunity to weigh-in now rather than wait until “when that process is completed and a contract has been awarded and fully executed.” We have “bad” contracts already on books in Vermont and we don’t need more. How about a full report of the pros and cons of creating a Vermont State Bank based upon the North Dakota State Bank model?

    • Tom Grout

      The State of Vermont has a fudicary duty to me and my fellow state workers and not to pander to a handful of rebels. What do you suggest during a 6 years contract of some unacceptable stock shows up?

    • well having the people’s voice involved in governing decisions that effect their lives? I like that idea.

    • Gary Murdock

      “She needs to look at all issues involving Vermont’s support of banks and companies that are funding corporations that are putting profits above people.”

      But of course you exempt the Iberdrola’s of the world from this scrutiny.

    • Representative Barry, you are assuredly on the right track. The current approach is not working; dump it, and do something else. That TD Bank has outlived its usefulness.

    • A Vermont State Bank is an intriguing idea. I would also like to see the pros and cons. I think a study might also look at having a broader range of public services than BND using the same credit union model upon which BND was based.

  • yes, why don’t “you people” “do something constructive”. ah, yes, play chess while the tanks are in the street, stay in the belief system the earth is not dying, there are not 400 dead zones in the ocean, what if you had 400 dead zones on your leg would you respond or deposit money in the bank, tough call.

  • TDBank: A wholly owned subsidiary of Toronto-Dominion Bank based in Toronto. For those out there, geographically-challenged, Toronto is in Canada. And even though it is part of North America, which includes our exceptional country, it is a foreign-based corporation.
    So is it those sacred “Vermont Values” in play that someone at the state said…” that the state is currently reviewing banking options as the 2010 contract will soon expire.” I think it might be a good thing to review the contract. Let’s keep it local!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TD_Bank,_N.A.

    • Rich Lachapelle

      “Keep it local” doesn’t work when we are referring to the actual product delivered by said pipelines that is required to run 99% of our vehicles. We produce/extract NO fossil fuels in Vermont and must import all we use. If we punish a bank which has investments in “dirty” businesses we will pay more for it’s services or earn less in interest. I thought that we already settled this issue in the decision to not divest Vermont’s pension funds from fossil fuel investments? Should all businesses contracted by the State of Vermont have to bear the “politically correct” or “socially conscious” seal of approval? It may make some people feel good about themselves but it would be seriously shooting ourselves in the foot fiscally and there has been way too much feel-good policy going on in Vermont for the last 40 years driving up the cost of living and impoverishing what’s left of our middle class.

      • Paula Schramm

        Rich Lachapelle – One of the worst aspects of the DAPL pipeline under construction is that, like the infamous Keystone XL pipeline , it is all about getting oil to refineries & then right out to export markets around the world. This is no longer about meeting domestic need – those Bakken Shale orders are currently filled by existing pipelines.
        So this travesty through Native American ( stolen ) lands, sacred sites and precious drinking water is solely for the profits of the corporations selling oil overseas. And they don’t even get charged for the increasing carbon pollution of the world’s atmosphere that is acidifying the oceans, melting arctic ice and the world’s glaciers that people depend on for their water, and causing deadly droughts that are killing hundreds of thousands and creating mass migration that is bringing chaos & violence throughout the world.
        You may think I’m exaggerating for effect …. but sadly, no – just what’s already happened – it will get worse.

  • Ernie Hitchkiss

    Judith Schmidt, head of Corporate Media Relations at TD Bank, said: “We support efforts to ensure the sustainability and safety of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) site.

    Judith Schmidt’s statement is an oxymoron, and completely out of touch with reality, especially in the case of the DAPL. This documentary by an Enbrdige whistle blower about the criminal coverup of the Enbridge oil spill in Kalamazoo and the EPA’s role in the coverup shows the lack of safety of these pipelines, and is an absolute MUST WATCH:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSBSLkQAkb8

    Enbridge is part owner of the DAPL. I suggest Judith Schmidt watch the above video, otherwise her corporate message rings hollow.

  • Andrew nemethy

    Thanks to VtDigger for covering this event extensively, as well as the state treasurer’s views and views of protesters and passersby. I regret to say my old newspaper’s coverage (in the Times Argus) was cursory at best for an issue that clearly resonates in this region.

  • David Ross

    Hugh Hawkins interview has nothing to do with the protest other than to clearly demonstrate that he doesn’t care about our planets future or that of future generations, that this means nothing in comparison to his slight inconvenience. This lack of caring, this indifference to the global warming that will put an end to humanity is exactly why this protest was held.

  • Jane Palmer

    Thank you to those that stood up to TD Bank and its investments. I have often heard…follow the money…and this is exactly what these folks are doing. The resistance is getting stronger.

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