Dakota Pipeline Protests Reach Downtown Providence

Two activists were arrested Oct. 20 for protesting inside the TD Bank on Westminster Street in Providence. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)

Two activists were arrested Oct. 20 for protesting inside the TD Bank on Westminster Street in Providence. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)

Video and text by TIM FAULKNER\ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The Dakota Access Pipeline protest recently made its way to Rhode Island with a demonstration at the local branch of a bank connected to the fossil-fuel project.

Westminster Street was blocked for an hour Oct. 20 as two environmental activists staged a noontime sit-in inside the TD Bank at the corner of Westminster and Dorrance streets.

The cement and rebar mooring remained in the bank after two protesters locked themselves to it.

The cement and rebar mooring remained in the bank after two protesters locked themselves to it.

Massachusetts residents Laura Borth of Weymouth and Steve Davis of Rockport were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after chaining themselves to a 4-foot-high homemade cement and rebar tower that they carted in on a dolly. Both are members of The FANG Collective, an activist group that opposes local fossil-fuel projects, such as the proposed Burrillville power plant and the liquefied natural gas facility on the Providence waterfront.

Borth and Davis were released at 11 p.m. They are scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 26 in Providence District Court.

TD Bank is one of several dozen large institutions helping finance a $2.5 billion loan for the proposed 1,100-mile pipeline that will deliver oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

Environmental activists have staged protests with the Native American tribe Standing Rock Sioux at its reservation in North Dakota. Dozens of "protectors" have been arrested for blocking pipeline construction. Project opponents fear that the pipeline will rupture and pollute drinking water, tribal land and the Missouri River.

"If you live on this land, breathe the air and drink water ... this is your fight too. We call on all ally groups to take action and hold the banks who finance the Dakota Access Pipeline accountable," said Krystal Two Bulls of the Red Warrior Camp in a prepared statement. "Let The FANG Collective's action serve as an example of what an ally group should look like. Divest. Take action. Stand with us at Red Warrior Camp and Standing Rock."

Citizens Bank, based in Providence, is also one of the pipeline financers. Other banks involved with the project with a local presence include Bank of America.

In a statement, TD Bank said its financial contribution to the project is insignificant.

“If that is in fact true,” FANG spokeswoman Sherrie Andre said, “then they should just stop supporting it. It shouldn’t be that hard.”

Andre said FANG intends to target local banks connected to the pipeline project but that nothing has been planned.