Green Action should have chosen better venue

Kim Gaspar | Class of 2014

After hearing of Green Action’s protest at the Bank of America recruiting event on campus, I am left thinking less about the environmental consequences of mountaintop coal mining and more about the students whose information session was thwarted. I am disappointed in Green Action’s choice of venue for their protest and their ignorance, albeit unintentional, of the negative consequences for Washington University students seeking employment with Bank of America.

A company information session is an event where students can talk directly with recruiters and get to know more about the positions available at a firm. Staging a protest at this event inflicts more harm on fellow students than on Bank of America. What will the recruiters remember from their Wash. U. visit? It is unlikely that they will remember any of the standout students who attended the event. Also, any irritation caused by the protesters could very well taint any impressions that interested students were able to make on the recruiting team. At least one Wash. U. student who attended the Bank of America information session expressed irritation with the disruption on Facebook. I find it regrettable that a student group protest could so negatively affect a fellow Wash. U. student’s career opportunities.

Was this information session the only available venue for Green Action to voice its opposition, and was the appropriate audience reached? I do not believe so. Foremost the recruiting team has little to no influence on the loans that Bank of America decides to grant. In this regard, the protest failed to reach actionable Bank of America employees. If the purpose of the protest was solely to raise awareness of the environmental consequences of mountaintop coal mining and Bank of America’s role in funding these mining companies, why did it need to be done at the expense of other Wash. U. students? Wash. U. has a Bank of America location on the Danforth Campus and multiple Bank of America ATMs are located on the South 40, the Village and main campus. Why didn’t Green Action protest near these locations? Or why didn’t they approach the Wash. U. administration about supporting Bank of America’s presence on our campus?

I hope that in the future, Wash. U. student groups will not get caught up in the glamour of a protest and consider the total consequences of their actions on fellow Wash. U. students.

  • anonymous

    I think this was the perfect venue. look how much attention you are giving these protests!!

  • You’re Ignorant

    How would protesting at a machine help solve anything? The point of protesting in a public venue like Meet the Firms was to incite a reaction out of students and to create a debate that would make mountaintop coal mining a relevant issue on a campus that would otherwise choose to turn a blind eye. And why is everyone so sure that this is going to put a strain Wash. U.’s relationship with Bank of America? It is ignorant to get worked up at a group of students who did a noble thing, standing up for what they believe in, before you really know what the consequences of this occurrence may be.

    • Jerome Bauer

      Best of all, nobody got hurt.

  • Green Action member

    Important note to the OP:

    This was not a Green Action event. This protest was organized by a coalition of individual students that were not acting on behalf of a student organization. Although Green Action members were invited to participate, and some chose to participate as representatives of themselves (NOT as representatives of Green Action), Green Action as an organization was not affiliated with this action.
    OP, please consider releasing a response, as you have misrepresented Green Action in this post.

  • Jerome Bauer

    Sorry I was unable to attend the protest nor be involved in the planning process. I am still in the hospital, recovering from a cerebellar stroke resulting from untreated hypertension, and receiving low vision mobility training. When I am released I will be back on the street, in front of the Mallinckrodt BoA perhaps, tapping my cane and wearing my yellow Beyond Coal protest shirt and my IWW pin, feeling a bit wobbly though otherwise fully recovered.

    Speaking of Beyond Coal, I was part of the autumn 2010 protest of the University’s Energy Futures Symposium, stated by Green Action, Climate Action, MORE, and other groups. We wore our yellow protest shirts and held signs under our jackets, and stood up silently and revealed ourselves on cue. Cameras clicked and the obvious security guard sitting beside everyone did nothing. I heard that the WUPD chief personally thanked one of our organizers for the civil way in which the protest was conducted, and Chancellor Wrighton himself had a few neutral words about it. Many of the delegates engaged our prtestors in dialogue after the event, and the Chinese in particular seemed impressed. They can’t do anything like this back home, after all. In the after action debriefing, our chief self criticism was that our own alternative educational event at the firepit was not sufficiently visible and that we did nto have handbills to distribute inside the politely occupied Energy Futures Symposium. We were making such a good impression but we failed to take full advantage of it.

    A properly organized protest can enormously enhance the educational value of any event. This is still a free country and we have a right to protest when we feel something is wrong. Those who disagree have the same right. If we keep it civil, there should be no problem.

    • Jerome Bauer

      PS. In the action described above, many were first time demonatrators who were very concerned about potential arrest or violence. For all we knew, if something had gone wrong, we might have been wrestled to the ground, picked up by the carotid artery (an MP tactic) and taken away to jail, as had happened earlier that summer to peaceful demonstrators protesting Wells Fargo’s foreclosure of Culver Way Ecovillage property. We had started chanting and that was when security guards surrounded us, leaving no escape route, and assaulting us. They had known we were coming well in advance, but even foreknowledge did not prevent escalation to violence. We were pretty sure some back channel communication had been going on between our organizers and Peabody Global Security and WUPD, but even so, the situation could have blown up. I was not particularly worried because we had modeled our protest upon the University endorsed Phyllis Schlafly honorary degree protest, though we pushed the limits of that just a bit (please see my post in the other thread in this issue).

      Direct action is never safe, no matter how well planned, and even when overt and covert channels of communication are kept open and everyone’s intentions are good. Direct action training, such as the one I attended at Wash U in spring 2012, which cut all reference to police brutality and taking arrest as a condition for putting on the workshop, seriously mislead the students. Nothing worth doing is ever safe or easy.

      Here are some examples of other events which went well and may serve as models of good humored political theater:

      On Valentine’s Day 2013 MORE broke up with Wells Fargo. We sang country and western breakup songs to the lone security guard. “I’ll flush you down the toilet of my heart,” and the like, we sang accompanied by guitar. The security guard kept saying “private property, private property,” perhaps all he was allowed to say, but I was standing close enough to see the smile on his face. He almost cracked up. I thought to myself, “This job must be boring. I bet some of them look forward to being entertained by us. Why doesn’t Corporate issue them guitars and song sheets so they can serenade us back? That would be better than beating us up.”

      In December 2010 MORE, et. al. picketed the Clayton Bank of America, carefully guarded by the police. We sang mock Christmas carols, such as “Ho, ho, ho, where did it go? Up on Wall Street, click click click, they took our money, now aren’t they slick?”and “I’ll be homeless by Christmas.” The latter was particularly poignant for me. The year before my home had a sale date the day before Thanksgiving, and I might have been homeless by Christmas. My heart goes out to all the other underwater homeowners.

      • Jerome Bauer

        PPS: In brief: Good humor can often defuse a tense situation, so nobody gets hurt.