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Time Out from Holiday Rush for Protest in Portland

About 35 Maine students and local supporters occupied a local bank branch in Portland to protest loans the bank made to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Maine Students for Climate Action)
About 35 Maine students and local supporters occupied a local bank branch in Portland to protest loans the bank made to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Maine Students for Climate Action)
December 22, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine – While many people have been out holiday shopping this week, some local college students have been protesting a major bank's investment in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project.

Ester Topolarova, an organizer for Maine Students for Climate Justice, was among the 35 college students and supporters who occupied the TD Bank in Portland for about a half-hour on Monday.

Topolarova says the students carried a long, symbolic pipeline, representing TD Bank's loan of $365 million to construct the real pipeline.

"And we went to the TD Bank to ask people who are invested in the TD Bank, as well as the TD Bank itself, to divest from Dakota Access Pipeline because the Dakota Access Pipeline is harming indigenous communities," Topolarova explains.

The protest in Portland was one of many taking place across New England and the nation.

A TD Bank representative has responded by saying, "TD supports responsible energy development. We employ due diligence in our lending and investing activities relating to energy production."

Topolarova says these direct action protests have already produced some results, including the Army Corps of Engineers denying a permit that temporarily halted pipeline construction across the tribal lands of the Standing Rock Sioux. But she says there's concern the incoming Trump administration could overturn that ruling.

"Many people will say, 'Oh, now nobody's in danger,'” Topolarova states. “They are still in danger, and they are just thinking of moving the pipeline a little bit, but the construction just hasn't stopped. And so, we hope that putting pressures on the bank could contribute in stopping the construction."

The pipeline would carry more than 500,000 gallons of crude oil daily and would cross under the Missouri River, which is the tribe's main source of drinking water.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME