About 20 protesters gathered outside a Bank of America recruitment session near the UC Berkeley campus Thursday to demonstrate against the bank’s involvement with firms in the coal industry.
The protesters distributed literature inside the UC Berkeley Career Center on Bancroft Way, where Bank of America was holding job interviews. The protesters succeeded in disrupting a number of interviews before Career Center staff negotiated a move outside. UCPD was called during negotiations but arrived after protesters had moved outside.
The protesters, a coalition of local, national and student environmental activists, then continued to hand out literature to people walking outside the building in order to inform them of the bank’s involvement with coal industries.
“We need to take a stand against the funders of health issues, including mountaintop removal, and funders of coal,” said Gabe Schwartzman, a member of the protest and a UC Berkeley senior.
Protesters said that Bank of America does more business with firms in the coal industry than any other bank in the United States. The demonstration aimed to inform students interviewing with Bank of America at the Career Center. Bank of America declined to comment.
Protesters informed the interviewees about what they saw as Bank of America’s deceitful public relations tactics.
“Greenwashing is when companies go, ‘Oh we’re so sustainable,’ but they actually damage the environment,” said Todd Zimmer, the coal finance organizer for the Rainforest Action Network. “But (Bank of America) has put 6.4 billion into the coal industry in the last two years, more than any other company.”
The protesters also aim to remove Bank of America’s presence from the UC Berkeley campus entirely, which includes several ATMs on campus, a credit card with the Cal Alumni Association and recruitment held on campus property.
Bank of America is not the only major U.S. bank that transacts with firms in the coal industry, but protesters have singled out Bank of America because they want to focus their activities on the largest corporations.
The Career Center attempted to ensure the interviews went ahead uninterrupted.
“There is no problem, from my perspective, on handouts,” said Tom Devlin, director of the Career Center, referring to the protesters’ paper fliers. “(But) I’m concerned that no one creates any anxiety for students coming to the Career Center.”
The protesters, however, said they will continue to fight until Bank of America reduces its funding of dangerous practices.
“All of Bank of America’s intrusions on campus we’ll challenge,” Schwartzman said.
This demonstration comes after student groups on campus have called for the university to divest from fossil fuel companies as part of a nationwide campaign to stop climate change.
Jacob Brown is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected].