More News:

July 10, 2024

Seniors protest Wells Fargo's investment in fossil fuels outside Center City branch

The action was part of the national Summer of Heat climate movement, which has targeted Wall Street for the past five weeks.

Protests Climate Change
Seniors climate protest Kristin Hunt/for PhillyVoice

Climate protesters with Third Act Pennsylvania, Elders Action Network and Earth Quaker Action Team gathered outside the Wells Fargo bank on 1700 Market Street in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

A monthslong climate movement that has resulted in dozens of arrests in New York arrived in Philadelphia on a scorching Wednesday afternoon.

Roughly 40 demonstrators gathered outside the Wells Fargo branch on 1700 Market Street to protest the bank's investment in fossil fuels. The action was part of the wider Summer of Heat campaign targeting financial institutions with money in the coal, oil and gas industries. Though it is centered on Wall Street, the movement has spread to cities across the United States in recent days.

MORE: Philadelphia Parking Authority says scammers are sending texts about fake unpaid tickets

It's also, notably, full of elder voices. Many of the protesters on Market Street were affiliated with Third Act, a progressive organization led by Americans over 60, or the like-minded Elders Action Network. Some sat in rocking chairs while singing protest songs and cheering on speakers like City Councilmember Nicolas O'Rourke. Several carried signs referencing their grandkids.

"We're past the stage where we have to worry about our career," said John Braxton, a campaign leader with Third Act Pennsylvania. "We're past the stage where we have to worry about raising our children. But we're concerned about our grandchildren. We're concerned about our children's future, and we have some time to put into this."

They also have significant capital. Americans over 55 hold over 70% of the nation's wealth, according to Federal Reserve data, giving them enormous financial leverage. The protesters are training that leverage on the U.S. banks with the largest investments in fossil fuels — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, according to a recent reportIf these companies refuse to move their money out of fossil fuels, the protesters say they will move their money out of the banks. They're encouraging others to do the same.

"We are all Philadelphia area residents, and some of us have been long-time customers of Wells Fargo," read a letter the group delivered to the branch manager. "As we have come to understand the critical role that Wells Fargo and other big banks continue to play in worsening the climate crisis, we are pledging to move our money away from banks that care more about their profits than they do about the lives of the next generations."

Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Some of the protesters are in the process of closing their accounts at what they call "dirty" banks. Bertrand Dussert, a facilitator with Third Act Pennsylvania, said he already moved his money in Wells Fargo into a credit union, and he convinced his wife to do the same.

"I used to think, I'm such a good climate citizen," he said. "I have an electric vehicle, I have LED bulbs. I try not to eat too much meat and dairy. This is all good. But if you really want to make an impact, you go there."

The Summer of Heat campaign has already generated attention in New York, where 61 protesters were arrested outside the Citigroup headquarters last month. More were arrested Monday, including Third Act founder Bill McKibben. (According to Braxton, who said he was among the arrested protesters, they were held for several hours and charged with trespassing.) Its organizers have pledged to continue protesting through July and August, for a cumulative 12 weeks, with the aim of achieving Wall Street divestment from fossil fuel companies and a significant investment in renewable energy.

Though it's unclear whether any future actions might hit Philadelphia, the movement isn't done with Pennsylvania. A similar protest outside a Bank of America branch in Pittsburgh is scheduled for Thursday.

Follow Kristin & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @kristin_hunt | @thePhillyVoice
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice
Have a news tip? Let us know.