Bank of America customers on their way to cash paychecks last Friday afternoon were none too happy to find the doors to the downtown Asheville branch padlocked shut — with a bike lock. The prank was just one element of a protest-on-wheels staged by Asheville Rising Tide, a group that uses direct-action tactics to draw attention to the issue of climate change.
Some 30 bicyclists, including this one, cycled through downtown as part of Critical Mass, a periodic rally on bikes that is popular in cities like Portland, Ore., and San Francisco. At the Bank of America on Patton Avenue, some of them pitched lumps of coal outside the doors, flew banners with messages proclaiming, “Climate Chaos: Brought to you by the Bank of America,” and locked the front door of the bank with a bike lock.
In a press release sent out by the group, activists said their bike ride was timed to coincide with G8 protests in Germany, where the issue of climate change is a focal point. “In the face of massive species extinction, drought, and rising sea levels, the best these world leaders can come up with is to ‘consider’ doing something?” Liam Jefferson, a protester, said in the group’s press release, referencing G8 talks. Bank of America was selected as a target because of its financial ties with Massey Energy and Arch Coal, two of the largest companies involved in mountaintop-removal coal mining, according to the group’s statement.
But the bank manager says the protesters didn’t get their point across — at least not to the bank employees who were locked inside. “Nobody even understood what they were protesting,” he says. “They just got a kick out of putting a chain on the door.” This past March, the Bank of America launched a $20 billion initiative to support environmental business practices, green their facilities, and facilitate carbon trading.
— Rebecca Bowe, editorial assistant