Around mid-December, Jane Fonda announced her desire to divest from Wells Fargo as part of a call-out to #BankExit on December 21 (which was also her birthday). Lydia Ponce of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Southern California, said the event--Fonda's bank exit--had to be planned in only four days, but AIM was more than happy to undertake it.
Fonda's plan was to divest publicly, but Wells Fargo locked its doors--and in the process locked Tongva elder Gloria Arellanes in. (She had gone in ahead of Fonda.) “They may not let Gloria out, and they wouldn't let us in, but we can still take our money out,” said Fonda.
Unable to read her statement to Wells Fargo representatives, Fonda read it to the crowd (and parts of it got into mainstream news). “As a customer of your bank, I reject the notion of my money helping to support your [honks of support by passing vehicle] investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline,” her letter began, “which is an inherently dangerous and unjust oil pipeline that threatens air and water quality in many states and violates sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The fact that Wells Fargo has invested money in DAPL indicates gross corporate irresponsibility and hypocrisy. As a signatory to the Ecuador Principles, how can Wells Fargo be associated with these companies?
“Even minimal due diligence shows that Energy Transfer Partners [truck honks in support; the crowd cheers] and Sunoco, the companies that own and operate the pipeline, have the worst oil spill record in the United States. How can I trust a bank that was not aware of this?“ She mentioned lawsuits against Energy Transfer Partners regarding various forms of contamination in Vermont, Texas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and Louisiana.
After reading the excerpt of her letter, she pointed out the success of the divestment movements against Apartheid in South Africa.
Also present were Lily Tomlin (Fonda's friend and co-star in 9 to 5 and the current internet series Grace and Frankie), who'd already withdrawn her money; Frances Fisher (a prolific actress often associated with Titanic), who spent two weeks in Standing Rock; actress Catherine Keener (known for Into the Wild, Being John Malkovich, et al); and Dolores Huerta.
Huerta observed that the bank's money is the people's money, and the people don't want their money spent on this planet-destroying scheme.
Gloria Arellanes, now finally freed from the bank, described her experience. Most of the bank employees were “very kind, they were actually waiting for us,” she said, but one man. who “got very nasty,” forbade her from exiting through the front doors—the way she came in. (The bank locked its doors and covered its windows when the demonstrators arrived.) When Gloria explained that she needed to use the front door—she has a disability and walking is hard—he replied (not nicely), “That's too bad.” She had to call 911 (“my tax money at work”) and wait for police to come and let her out. (Her full recounting of this event can be seen here, just under 12 minutes into it, not too long after Huerta speaks): https://www.facebook.com/PeopleForBernie/videos/1912734525613419/
The irony of Gloria being detained on her own people's land* was not lost on various demonstrators.
She then encouraged others to divest. “I've been with a credit union for 30 years and have never had a problem.” (She later mentioned having had loans with them.)
Everyone proceeded to march down Vine to Sunset Boulevard, where a rally was held in front of Chase. Gloria encouraged everyone to tell their families and friends to change how they do things—the world is so full of toxins (even in our food and air), and it's getting worse.
We were joined by still another actor-activist, Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H). “I am one of those Americans who regrets the fact that the history of this country is replete with instances of torture and devastation of the Native Americans,” he said, “and I believe that we need to recognize our history and stop the continued despoiling of this land and stop the continued despising of the fundamental indigenous people who were here and have lessons to teach us. . . . The Standing Rock Sioux impressed the hell out of me, as they did a great number of people around this country, by standing up to the exploiters and the destroyers. . . .” (Farrell was one of multiple speakers who stressed the need for non-Natives to start learning from Natives, as should have been done in the beginning.)
Frances Fisher spoke eloquently about the Standing Rock camp: there were tents for sewing, tents for food, tents for mental health, and people were sharing firewood. She wondered why more communities can't be that way. Yet she also witnessed one of the brutal, heavy-handed assaults on the peaceful Water Protectors. (Greywolf of AIM SoCal was in the throes of that and shared his memories. He thought he was going to die. It was the worst thing he'd experienced in all his years of activism—going back to the '60s.)
A few minutes later, Dolores Huerta, who also visited Standing Rock, spoke along similar lines as Fisher and continued the thought**. “Thank you, Frances, for painting that beautiful picture. When I went there to Standing Rock and I went to the camp, I thought, 'My, this is what society should look like. Everybody is there in peace with a vision.' The vision, of course, was to stop the pipeline from going under the Missouri River. Everybody was sharing. There were people that came from everywhere: Wisconsin, Washington state, from Canada... They came, and they were sharing food, helping each other build their shelter[s]. I thought, 'When we go through the Los Angeles streets we see so many homeless people.' I thought, 'Hey, why can't we do this for the homeless? Right? Give them shelter, give them food, and have this whole idea of co-operation,' which are the Indigenous values. Indigenous values are co-operation, Indigenous values are sharing; Indigenous values are not about domination, right? Or about greed or about corruption. I think this is what Standing Rock meant to me when I was there. I could see a society where we could not only share and care for each other but also work together on the issues that we need to solve in this society.” She also spoke of the continued need to oppose the death penalty in California, despite the setback in November's election.
At one point, Jane Fonda was presented with a birthday cake featuring a likeness of Barbarella (a space heroine Fonda played in the '60s) but with the title Bankarella. The crowd sang Happy Birthday. There was enough for everyone. It was the best-tasting cake I recall ever eating. Pizza was also provided.
Then, something started happening in front of Bank of America across the street. What seemed like several dozen people began a round dance in the busy intersection of Sunset and Vine, stopping traffic for several minutes (and many light changes). Some cars honked impatiently (though not as many as I would've expected). The police, already present because of the rally, emitted a siren a few times as warning. Finally, three officers went over (one holding the baton on his belt), and the round dance appeared to end peacefully. “Come back to the dark side,” Lydia called as the dancers returned to Chase.
“Standing Rock is everywhere,” Lydia later reminded us. “In our backyards, in Wilmington, Buscaino has plans to continue to further ruin the land, typically where socio-economically-challenged people, people of color are living, children of all ages and those not born yet (more here: http://grist.org/cities/the-sad-sickening-truth-about-south-l-a-s-oil-wells/
). So you don't have to go far to find Standing Rock in our own backyards. Standing Rock is everywhere. We need to also be vigilant about what's happening in our own backyards. . . .”
Fonda was subsequently interviewed by Larry Smith on KPFK's American Indian Airwaves, along with Huerta, Fisher, and 13-year-old Standing Rock activist Tokota Iron Eyes. It can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/burntswamp/aia_22dec2016
*The general area of the event was originally the village of Cahuengna, meaning “land of foxes,” according to Larry Smith of American Indian Airwaves (http://www.kpfk.org/index.php/programs/43-american-indian-airwaves#.WF2RZZC8pHc
). “Airwaves” is a weekly radio show recently rescheduled to Thursday nights at 7-8pm on KPFK (90.7FM).
**I recommend hearing Huerta and Fisher speak themselves: https://www.facebook.com/PeopleForBernie/videos/1912734525613419/
. Huerta's statement starts at about 104:00, or shortly after Fisher; Fisher's at about 59:30 or after Mike Farrell and Angela Mooney D'Arcy.