Local Activists Protest Louisiana Pipeline Project

 Protesters urged Bank of America customers to close their accounts at the Hope Street branch in Providence on July 30.

Protesters urged Bank of America customers to close their accounts at the Hope Street branch in Providence on July 30.

Videos and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — It’s not getting much media attention but Bayou Bridge Pipeline protesters are still trying to stop the southern Louisiana oil pipeline. Activists are chaining themselves to equipment and squatting in trees as a last-ditch effort to derail construction.

Members of the local climate activist group The FANG Collective, recently returned from the L'eau Est La Vie resistance camp near the pipeline, drew local attention to the cause July 30 by protesting outside the Bank of America on Hope Street.

Arely Diaz, a local resident, spent two weeks at the Louisiana protests and returned to further the cause by closing her bank account at Bank of America, one of the seven financiers of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

Diaz had the account since she was 19, but she closed it after seeing the impact the 163-mile pipeline was having on the homeland of indigenous groups and people of color.

“This investment Bank of America has with this pipeline is destroying communities,” she said.

Pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners built the now completed Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Dakota Access connects to the Bayou Bridge via the southern leg of the Bakken Pipeline. Bayou Bridge is expected to be finished in October, when it will begin transporting 480,000 barrels of light or heavy crude oil daily to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

The pipeline travels through the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest wetland swamp in North America. Protesters have described machines shredding whole trees as the project bores through swamps, destroying wetlands and indigenous land.

“Two Hawks” Raymond Watson of The Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe joined the protest to represent the local indigenous nations in opposition to pipeline development. The pipeline, Watson said, is a continuation of efforts by the federal government and corporations to take away sovereignty from indigenous people.