Local organizers of all ages led a protest of Wells Fargo and Chase banks on Friday afternoon. Around 100 people gathered around the clock tower downtown holding signs, fake pipelines and cardboard flames.
Both banks loan billions of dollars to Enbridge Inc, the Canadian company behind the controversial Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
The local group Novasutras organizes small Line 3 protests in front of the banks often, says Santa Cruz High School sophomore Tamarah Minami.
“Today, Fridays For Future was calling for a global climate strike, where young people all around the globe walk out,” she says. “So, we thought it would be a good idea to make what had already been happening in Santa Cruz into a bigger event and get the youth to walk out for it.”
Minami has organized climate strikes for a few years through Youth for Climate Justice. This strike was smaller than the one two years ago, she says. The group had less time to prepare, and many UCSC students are just now arriving in town. “But everyone here had a lot of energy, and it was great to hear everyone speak.”
At the clock tower, students and community members talked about divestment from fossil fuels. The crowd then marched to the Wells Fargo bank on River Street. Employees had locked the doors.
A few high school students boosted each other onto a platform above the entryway. Others berated the bank over a portable speaker system and talked to passing customers about the company’s involvement with fossil fuels.
The group marched a few streets over to the Chase bank on Ocean Street, where they found locked doors once again. Students—some as young as 10—gave short speeches about the importance of discussing climate change in schools and the right to protest.
“It’s definitely really scary. And a lot of people need to talk about it more, especially schools,” said Marley Pucelik, an eighth-grader at Mission Hill Middle School and the president of the climate justice club there.
The people behind the pipeline decisions are just thinking about money, she said with frustration.
“What are we going to do with money when we don’t have a future? When society is falling apart? When our children have to breathe in masks constantly? When we don’t have fresh water?” she asked.
Michelle Merrill, the founder of Novasutras, echoed those concerns. “This is the most urgent issue of this decade, and the decades to come,” she said. “And the more we can make change now, the less people will suffer.”
She pointed to the cardboard flames.
“Given what happened here in Santa Cruz County, people are waking up to the fact that climate change isn’t something that’s happening in the future. It is happening now,” she said.
As the crowd walked past a bus stop, one man grumbled that the group made him miss the bus.
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” said Merrill. “We’re trying to, you know, save civilization.”