Timeline and History
Our first campaign is called B.L.A.M! – Bank Like Appalachia Matters.
We are asking PNC Bank, a historically Quaker bank with whom our community has had a long relationship, to withdraw financing from corporations who engage in mountaintop removal coal mining.
What follows is a short history and summary of our nonviolent campaign to Shine the Light on PNC’s investment practices and bring public attention to the human and environmental consequences of mountaintop removal.
For years, Appalachians have petitioned for redress, and been met with silence. For that reason they have been forced to use non-violent civil disobedience to protect the land, heal their communities, and hold companies that profit from MTR accountable.
We are proud to be a part of that movement, and to bring our Testimony to this important issue. We are challenging the fifth largest bank in America to go Green, and we are putting our faith into practice.
And how far we have come already!
1. EQAT was founded in the fall of 2009, as a direct result of conversations among Friends during PYM Sessions that year about sustainability, Right Relationship, and environmental justice. As part of that process, founding members of EQAT felt Led to work in the wider world, using the Quaker tradition of nonviolence to transform society.
2. In early 2010, EQAT met with J. William Mills, Regional President of PNC Bank in Philadelphia, and Jean Canfield, VP of Community Relations for the region, where we shared our concerns about PNC’s investments in MTR. Through this, and conversations with our national ally the Rainforest Action Network, PNC learned more about the unethical, unsustainable, and illegal violations of the Clean Water Act being committed with our money by MTR mining companies – although they insisted they would not take any action to curb their investments.
3. EQAT began to use nonviolent direct action to creatively Shine the Light on PNC’s policies. Some examples: With Swarthmore students, we sang songs and passed out flyers outside Philadelphia’s 2010 Flower Show, of which PNC is the main sponsor. After a mine disaster in West Virginia kills 29 miners (working for a company financed by PNC), we held a somber vigil, in the rain, outside PNC’s Regional Headquarters. During this time period, some of our members get the chance to visit MTR sites for the first time in West Virginia.
4. Four EQAT members are arrested in Sept. 2010, nonviolently occupying the lobby of a PNC Bank in Washington DC, during a national summit on mountaintop removal called Appalachia Rising. EQATers, joined by students from Swarthmore and Reverend Billy’s Gospel Choir, build a mountain of dirt inside the bank, to show both what can be lost, and what can be gained, by a policy of Right Relationship with the Earth.
5. By October 2010, PNC has released their first policy limiting investments on MTR. Within their new corporate responsibility report, the bank pledges to stop financing any corporation that gets more than 50% of its coal from MTR sources – which appears not to effect any of the major MTR companies that PNC does business with. PNC refuses to share evidence of any impacts of the policy when asked. Although it is a landmark policy and a victory for EQAT, we know it is only the beginning. We thanked PNC for taking a ‘first step’ by bringing 30 ‘Green Marathon’ runners to PNC’s Regional Headquarters, in an act of theatrical nonviolence reminding the bank that there is still ‘a long way to go’ to become Green.
6. We pledge to continue our campaign of nonviolence until PNC withdraws fully all financing from companies that engage in MTR.
Here are some of the ways that we use nonviolence to Shine the Light on PNC, expose their misleading public relations to our region and build a critical mass of concern and support for a new investment policy:
- EQAT brought surprise Christmas Carolers to PNC’s local headquarters, singing mountain-themed songs, and delivered a large blinking Christmas Card and a stocking filled with coal to the Regional President, Bill Mills.
- We created a Flower Crime Scene at PNC’s exhibit at the 2011 Philadelphia Flower Show, highlighting PNC’s hypocritical environmental policy. In this action, 9 EQATers risked arrest to demand that PNC come clean to the Flower Show about its investments in MTR, bringing breakthrough news coverage to our issue.
- We brought gifts for PNC’s CEO, James Rohr, and the Board of Directors at PNC’s Annual Shareholder Meeting in Washington DC. Along with our allies the Rainforest Action Network, we joined a young woman from West Virginia who shared her experiences living underneath an MTR site. Together we spoke with the President and other executives, one of whom responds to requests from our group to visit MTR sites in Appalachia.
- We traveled to West Virginia and join Appalachians in the March on Blair Mountain, a nonviolent action to protect a historic mountain (that was the site of a famous miners union battle) from MTR, alongside thousands of others, where we made important new allies and relationships.
- During the summer, we worked with Quakers all over the region to visit local branches and raise concerns about PNC’s policy, resulting in some very amazing encounters with Friends. We visited numerous PNC branches near local Quaker Meetings, during Phildelphia Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions in the Lehigh Valley, and alongside our student allies at Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr.
- In September of 2011, we put PNC on Trial right in their own lobby to highlight not only their financing of criminal violations of the Clean Water Act, but also their intransigence and lack of transparency and honesty. At their regional headquarters we held the Court of Land, Communities, Air and Water, and four members of EQAT risked arrest to stay inside, after being ordered to leave, and demand that PNC send a representative to the Court to respond to the charges. This helped lead to our campaign being mentioned iin an article on the front page of the Inquirer!
- In October, we had the opportunity to support Temple Students who are standing up to PNC. Joined by almost 100 from Occupy Philadelphia, our Temple allies spoke out at their Board of Trustees Meeting, where they demanded that Temple University end its relationship with PNC Bank if PNC continues to invest in mountaintop removal.
This represents much, but far from all, of the incredible, faithful, moving non-violent direct action that we have been engaging in over the past year. If this sounds appealing to you, then follow the link on the sidebar to your right to sign up for our emails, and join us for the next step in our campaign. We believe that non-violence works, and we want to make EQAT a welcoming place to experience it in action!