Spirited demo exposes Bank of Montreal’s role in deceptive coal terminal financing
No Coal activists and supporters held a spirited demonstration in San Francisco on September 12, outside a meeting of Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), an organization that promotes socially-responsible investment. We demonstrated to alert investors that the Bank of Montreal (BMO) may try to invite them to invest in waterfront “infrastructure” that is actually the proposed Oakland coal terminal. Also, BMO sent a representative to the conference, which was timed to coincide with the Global Climate Action Summit, and we wanted to make sure he registered the community’s strong opposition to the bank’s deceptive plan to raise money for storing and handling toxic coal in Oakland.
The demonstration at the Marriott Marquis Hotel was organized by No Coal in Oakland along with East Bay Democratic Socialists of America, Sunflower Alliance, and Diablo Rising Tide. Members of these groups were joined by other allies who agree that we must keep coal in the ground. Our noontime picket was preceded by leafleting many of the conference participants, and followed by a flash mob action.
Activists arrived early enough to distribute our flyer to conference participants as they arrived, and found them receptive to our message. Initially handing out flyers at the entrances to conference meeting rooms, they were eventually sent outside by hotel security. There they flanked the hotel entrance and easily identified conference attendees by their attire. Almost no one refused the pamphlet that described BMO’s role in financing the proposed coal terminal, and several people voiced their support for our effort. Our BMO flyer was also distributed at the Global Climate Action Summit itself.
Meanwhile, the hotel security staff placed yellow barricades and red “Free Speech Zone” signs to one side of the entrance. We ignored this colorful corral when the demonstration began. Instead, activists circled the front of the hotel in a classic picket line formation. At one point a flash mob—Get Up Street Theater—performed “Toxic.” Chants and songs rang out from the demonstrators, including these lyrics, set to Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bye Bye Love”:
Bye bye coal, bye bye filthiness
Hello healthiness, bye bye to coal, goodbye.
Phil sued the city, his lawsuit won
But he’s mistaken if he thinks we’re done
We’re going after his financier
Bank of Montreal, get out of here!
After the demonstration, the flash mob was able to get into the conference area during a coffee break. Before they finished their performance, they were hustled out—but they marched out of the hotel chanting, “No stealth coal! In Oakland or anywhere!”
After we disbanded, some of the security guards talked with an NCIO activist and one of them said, “We need you to keep doing what you’re doing. There’s no other planet for us to move to.”
The demonstration outside the PRI conference was also reported in the East Bay Express.
Photo credits: Steve Nadel, Jahahara Amen-RA Alkebulan-Ma’at, Kathy Kojimoto.