BRATTLEBORO — Tim Stevenson, founding director of Post Oil Solutions, has led weekly Friday vigils in front of the TD Bank branch on Main Street for more than two years to call attention to the financial giant's investments in fracked gas, tar sands oil, and the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.
But since the election of Donald J. Trump, Stevenson said the vigils have taken on an extra urgency, since Trump supports the construction of both pipelines, is an advocate of expanded oil, gas, and coal production in the U.S., and believes climate change is a hoax.
“It's definitely time to up the ante on our end,” he said.
That is why Stevenson and two other local protesters, Daniel Sicken and Li-Pon Owen, were arrested by Brattleboro Police on Feb. 22 and charged with disorderly conduct after blocking the front entrance to the bank.
Stevenson, Sicken, and Owen were all cited to appear in Windham District Court on April 4 to answer to the charge.
In a statement read to a crowd of more than 50 people that gathered in front of the bank, Stevenson said “in the hope for the well-being of all children and all living beings, we witness and call attention to the deadly fossil fuel investment activities of TD Bank,” and urged the bank's depositors “to withdraw their funds, until such time that TD Bank management discontinues” those investments.
After the statement was read, the trio entered the foyer of the bank's lobby and refused to leave.
“When we've done our vigils, we've been told not to be on the bank's property, and we complied,” Stevenson said. “Today, we were committed to civil disobedience, and we were prepared to be arrested.”
Several Brattleboro Police officers eventually arrived to arrest the three protesters, but it was all done in a quiet, low-key manner.
The vigils at the Brattleboro and Bellows Falls branches continued as scheduled on Feb. 24, and the campaign to get depositors, including the state of Vermont, to move their money also continues.
According to the state treasurer's office, nearly all of Vermont's unrestricted cash - more than $193 million as of Sept. 30, 2016 - is in TD Bank.
“The state does all of its banking with TD Bank,” said Stevenson. “That contract is up this year, but the other banks being considered also have ties to tar sands oil.”