the people versus merrill lynch

18 06 2007

Reposted from my old blog from February 25th, 2007. For original comments go here.


(Adi Nochur from SSC)

People hacked up black tar. They cried black tears. Paramedics in biohazard suits desperately tried to save their lives. It was a lively day for the financial district of Boston. We left major banks and financial institutions nervous, scared, and on their toes.

Here’s a video of the carnage:

Last Wednesday across the country in major cities from Dallas to New York, Rainforest Action Network activists stormed branches of Merrill Lynch to hold them accountable for funding TXU, a corporation trying to build 11 coal-fired power plants.
I had the privilege of coordinating the Boston action.

(Mike Da Cruz and Will Lambek of Brown SDS)

It’s hard to describe how big of an impact these coal plants would have. First of all they are planned to mostly be built in rural Texas communities, and I shouldn’t have to outline the class implications of building toxic dumps in low income communities and giving their children asthma. The local connections ran deep, as a similar company is trying to build a power plant in a low income community of color nearby in Chelsea. The power plant is being built right across from an elementary school.

The global impacts are staggering. These plants will release 78 million tons of greenhouse gases. That’s more than many countries. More than 21 combined U.S. states. More than 14 million new cars on the road. More than all of BP releases. More than Japan’s entire commitment to the Kyoto protocols – this one project would cancel out the Kyoto Protocols for the country of Japan. It’s one of the biggest steps backwards our country could take in the fight against climate chaos.

(Carly Huebner and Heidi Cooper)

We saw we had about a 3 month window to either stop or seriously scale back the project. So we went for it.

RAN’s strategy is to follow the money. Crazy how so often captialism’s at the root of things, isn’t it?. Some activists were challenging TXU on legal grounds, others through community pressure, others were trying to block their permits, other people were even activating the business community. But we know that even if TXU got it’s permits, they couldn’t function without financial backing. Three major banks were funding TXU: Morgan Stanley, Citibank, and Merrill Lynch. So far we have secured 20 banks who won’t mess with TXU. Merrill Lynch was the strategic target.

There were actions across the country, but no standing RAN chapters in Boston yet. Most of the folks who came out were various friends, allies, and SDSers (from chapters in Providence, Boston, and New York). SDSers in Portland Oregon had a demo in PDX, and SDSers were rocking in the big New York Action too (from chapters in NYC, and New Jersey), which had a “Billionaires for Coal” meme (an amazing action that got really major media. Look for accounts of it elsewhere!).

Pictures of that action here:

In ours, people violently died and hacked up pollution that was really hot fudge. We were going to originally splatter charcoal around and smear it all over ourselves, but we figured that with it being ash Wednesday and all, the messaging might be confusing. Then we were gonna sling brownie batter around, but didn’t want to waste brownies (or potential-brownies).

(Will Lambek and I)

After the climate change murders, we marched inside to deliver a letter from the RAN executive director to the CEO of Merrill Lynch. We were told that Merrill Lynch had briefed security that we’d be coming, and under no circumstances would they come down and chat with us.

(Will Chalmus and I)

Turns out they were feeling the heat though. Breaking news has it that TXU is crumbling, and the 11 power plants have now been scaled down to 3. Amazing. We’re still waiting for details and the dust to settle; and I imagine we cannot fairly take credit for this…but collectively in the last few months across the country activists took down 8 of these disgusting things. It gives me more inspiration to gear up for bigger fights.

We can’t stop here. No new coal. Period. Congress isn’t gonna regulate carbon. And as long as Wall Street continues to fund this stuff, we gotta fight.

Global warming is increasingly becoming THE issue of our generation. Everyone in our society is talking about it…except for most radical folks on the Left, for some reason. Al Gore is telling people that if they turn off their lights then they are doing their part. That’s not true. This is real, its looming and dramatic, and there are real power structures and people who are making it happen. It’s going to affect people in our generation the most; it is a youth issue. The people fucking the world are gonna be dead before they see the full effects of this….and then we will be dead, if we don’t do something. It disproportionately affects people who live in the Global South and folks of color in the US (Katrina, Stan, Tsunamis…).

We need to radicalize and polarize this issue. Its one of the most fertile vehicles to build a multi-issue mass movement in this country that can also confront the war, immigrant rights and other pressing issues. The emerging post-issue groups like SDS really need to take this seriously I think…

The action made the front cover of the Boston Metro, IndyMedia, was in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Spare Change News, and some local TV and radio. Maybe Newsweek too, we’ll see.

The NYC and other actions made the New York Times, a million financial journals, and city papers across the country.

If you are hammering away at the brand of a company and need to increase the pressure and public visibility of your campaign, coordinated, publicized street theater works. plain and simple.


here is some of the Boston media:


Wall Street Journal:

PDF of the front cover of the Boston Metro:

Internet version of the Metro article:

the Herald:

more pictures here:

Dirty Power Kills

(Will Chalmus, Mandee Schwartz, Jenny Venezia, Carly Huebner, and Heidi Cooper)

(Neena Pathak and Will Lambek)

(Will Lambek and I)

(Grace Yasamura from Rainforest Action Network)

(Heidi Cooper)




*All photos by Jonathan McIntosh




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