UPDATE 6:16 P.M. — Ithaca Police Department said in a release Thursday evening that protests at Chase Bank earlier in the day resulted in a dozen arrests.
The release, acknowledging Wednesday’s protests as well, says that eight adults and four minors were taken into custody for refusing to leave the bank.
“Today, several protesters again occupied the bank just before noon causing a disruption to customers who were attempting to do business there,” said Senior Deputy Chief Vincent Monticello in the release. “This was part of a national protest. The protesters were given many opportunities to leave the bank after speaking with bank officials and law enforcement over the course of several hours. The protesters refused to leave.”
The eight adults arrested will be charged with criminal trespass 3rd degree, a Class B misdemeanor. They will be released pending arraignment on Feb. 26.
The four minors taken into custody were released to their parents.
ITHACA, N.Y. –– For a second day environmental protesters have occupied Chase bank, ultimately causing the business to close Thursday.
On Wednesday morning, protesters blocked traffic on Green and Cayuga Streets for over an hour before eventually making their way to the Chase bank to occupy the space.
Feb. 13 marks the United Nations Global Divestment Day.
Led by Ithaca Extinction Rebellion (Ithaca XR), an environmental activist group, the protest amassed a crowd of around 50 outside the bank, in addition to a smaller group of around 10 protesters who were able to enter the lobby.
Shortly before noon, the protesters who were able to get inside the building entered as customers. Three of the group members closed their Chase bank accounts before occupying the space, holding signs with messages like, “no access, no pipeline, no consent.”
Management then positioned a security guard outside of the lobby doors and banned access into the bank. A sign put on the door cited an ’emergency’ for the closure.
Demonstrators, for a second day running, have entered @Chase branch in downtown Ithaca. @alittlelamb8 is on the scene, but the branch is closed, per the sign below. More to come on this. #twithaca pic.twitter.com/hywVMY2LCY
— The Ithaca Voice (@ithacavoice) February 13, 2020
Ithaca Police officers were called to the scene, and have positioned themselves in the lobby with protesters.
Ithaca XR has chosen to protest Chase bank due to its financial involvement with fossil fuel companies, in addition to the destruction of indigenous land through the construction of natural gas pipelines, according to organizers.
“The world’s largest funder of fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure projects is not welcome in our community until JPMorgan Chase agrees to STOP FUNDING ECOCIDE,” an Ithaca XR statement reads.
A letter was delivered to Chase bank staff earlier this week outlining Ithaca XR’s demands for Chase to mitigate their role in “ecocide,” or “the mass damage or destruction of natural living systems.”
The crowd outside the bank heard speeches from multiple community activists including Patricia Rodriguez, who teaches politics at Ithaca College, Valerie Hahn of Ithaca XR, Jon Roth of Ithaca XR, Elan Shapiro from Showing Up for Racial Justice, Heather McCarty who is a local business owner and environmentalist Jackie Dresser.
“We see Chase as a climate criminal,” Jon Roth told the crowd. “We’re here to confront them, call them out and disrupt business as usual.”
The Voice made several attempts to reach Chase bank management. After one Chase employee in the branch abruptly hung up upon learning they were speaking with a reporter, a statement was released by the company.
“Across our company we promote inclusive economic growth and opportunity in communities where we operate, and by 2023 we will invest $1.75 billion towards these efforts. We also work to advance environmental sustainability within our business activities and facilities. We recognize the complexity of climate change issues and actively engage with a diverse set of stakeholders to understand their views.”
The statement goes on to say, “we firmly believe that balancing environmental and social issues with financial considerations is fundamental to sound risk management. We have a significant amount of work underway to further build upon our efforts on climate-related risk and opportunity and we look forward to sharing more later this year.”
Meanwhile, on East Hill, a large crowd came together to ask Cornell to divest from fossil fuel companies. This comes after students took action in December, and gave the university an ultimatum to divest.
“We’ve been asking kindly for long enough, giving (them) until National Fossil Fuel Divestment day which is in February, to commit to divesting,” said Nick Sutera of Climate Justice Cornell told the Voice in December. “If they commit to it then we’re happy…If they don’t then we will be taking more actions like this and disrupting business as usual.”
The protesters there put on a mock wedding ceremony on Ho Plaza, between Cornell and Big Oil.
Mock wedding put on by Cornell students between the university and big oil. pic.twitter.com/F0KnKxfUBD
— Anna (@alittlelamb8) February 13, 2020
As of the time of publication, protesters are still occupying Chase bank.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that protesters entered the bank under the pretense of opening bank accounts. Some of the protesters actually closed existing Chase accounts.