EQAT's latest action

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EQAT members at Squirrel Hill PNC branch in Pittsburgh

On Saturday, December 6, approximately 300 people participated in the “Flood PNC” national day of action coordinated by Earth Quaker Action Team to demand that PNC Bank stop financing companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining. The day included actions at 31 locations in 12 states and the District of Columbia, with a few held Friday afternoon to accommodate local bank schedules. Six took place in the Philadelphia area, including one where Green Street Meeting closed their PNC account.

Although it has Quaker roots and often brags about its “green” buildings, PNC Bank is one of the largest financiers of companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining, a practice that other major banks are backing away from, including JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and UBS. In addition to contributing to climate change, this destructive practice destroys mountains, pollutes streams and displaces communities in Appalachia, while contributing to high rates of cancer and birth defects in the region. Several of the December 6 actions featured bottles of dark, contaminated water from Appalachian communities whose water has been poisoned.

For nearly 5 years, EQAT has pursued a nonviolent direct action campaign to stop PNC’s financing of mountaintop removal. The group’s tactics have included a 200-mile walk across Pennsylvania, fasting, civil disobedience, and bank branch actions that range from street speaking to silent Quaker worship. In 2014, the Philadelphia-based group expanded significantly, conducting trainings around the country and meeting up with other Quakers, first at FGC Gathering, held near Pittsburgh this year, and then at the September 21 People’s Climate March in New York City.

On December 6, 22 of the leaders at the 31 locations were playing that role for the first time, including a few teenagers. Participants ranged in age from 1 to 87-years-old with at least eleven pairs of parents and children. Most of the groups incorporated silent worship and song into their protest, some inside and some outside of the bank branches.

EQAT board member Ryan Leitner, one of the day’s coordinators, said, “It was really heartening to hear how energized people felt after witnessing to their convictions in this public way. Many used the word ‘powerful’ to describe their experiences worshipping inside the bank and are ready to take further, and maybe even bolder action. Being part of this group has been so transformative for me, and I love sharing that with others.” Leitner, a senior at Bryn Mawr College, was arrested three years ago for building windmills in a lobby of PNC’s regional headquarters in Philadelphia and has since trained others in civil disobedience.

EQAT is looking ahead to an action camp they will be organizing in Philadelphia on February 7-8 to be followed by a civil disobedience action on Monday, February 9 in conjunction with I Love Mountains Day. For more information, contact [email protected]. To make a contribution to support this work visit www.eqat.org/donate

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