SAN FRANCISCO-Northern California is currently experiencing historic wildfires that are torching tens of thousands of acres of land and stretching the state’s firefighting capacity. In September, fires in northern California displaced over 23,000 people, destroyed thousands of structures, caused billions of dollars in damage, led to at least one fatality, and destroyed fragile landscape. California’s unprecedented, ongoing drought is blamed for farms in the state’s Central Valley shutting down and the state has resorted to historic water rationing.
After last week’s Early Morning News broadcast over a hundred took to the streets of San Francisco. They pointed to institutions that profit from extractive industries which they say are contributing to the climate crisis. Institutions such as Chevron and Bank of the West were the targets for a nonviolent direct action. Shut Down Wall Street West was born and San Francisco was the first to meet the movement and its activists.
Those involved in the Flood the Wall Street actions in New York City last year promised that it was only the beginning. It was last September that hundreds of thousands marched in the streets of New York to call for climate action and the next day hundreds were arrested in a Shut Down Wall Street action targeting the institutions that profit from the fossil fuel industry.
In a kick off event for what is called Flood the System, Flood Wall Street West took their voices and their actions to San Francisco’s financial district.
What began with a Tour of Shame, the action began with what Flood the System participants said were some of the worst corporate and political bad actors, and thus, Bank of the West., a French subsidiary of BNP Paribas that profits from investments in the coal industry. Similar to what KGNU reported from the climate talks in Warsaw, Poland in 2013 (COP 19), the coal industry has again been discovered as a corporate sponsor of the climate talks in Paris this year (COP 21).
Participants marched through the Hall of Shame and set out to shut down business as usual and to highlight the connection between capitalism/exploitation/and oppression, to the climate crisis.
Now a year later, Flood Wall Street West said they wanted to flood the institutions that are profiting from the climate crisis so the group shut down Bank of the West as organizer Scott Parkin explained, “In our view [the coal industry] is using [the climate talks] as a ‘greenwashing’ opportunity to kind of do PR to clean their dirty fossil fuel financing image. The folks [occupying the bank inside at this moment] are sending a message that we don’t agree with what’s going on in the Paris climate talks and that Bank of the West is headquartered here in San Francisco and San Francisco is a good target for people in North America. [The protester’s] plans are to stay for as long as they can. Some of it’s up to the San Francisco Police Department, I guess.”
The San Francisco police department did arrive. There were four arrests inside the bank and seven outside in the intersection.
The action was called a win by those who took part.
KGNU will report from the climate talks in Paris again this year.