Scores of Bedford residents will join a “Day of Action” on Tuesday afternoon, protesting major banks that are helping finance the fossil fuel industry.
The colorful local event is planned from 2 to 3 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Park across from a branch of Bank of America on The Great Road. Organizers say their demonstration is open to all.
Many of the participants are residents of Carleton Willard Village and are members of a chapter of Third Act, a national organization that defines itself as “a community of Americans over the age of 60 determined to change the world for the better.”
Third Act was founded by the climate activist and social commentator Bill McKibben, who grew up in Lexington. (He scheduled the Day of Action for Tuesday because the date is a palindrome, 3-21-23.) McKibben’s mother Peggy resides at Carleton Willard Village.
Tuesday’s event is one of about 100 throughout the country targeting four major banks. According to Third Act, Bank of America, along with JP Morgan Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo have been responsible for more than a quarter of the total investment in fossil fuels over the past five years.
The rallies will feature signs, chants, and street theater, and some participants will destroy their Bank of America credit cards.
“We expect to have a bagpiper in a kilt, a polar bear costumed participant, some music, some chanting,” said co-organizer Marjorie Roemer, a former English professor. “We’ve made posters and we’re pretty excited about it.” She emphasized that “we are not representing CWV; we are there as private Bedford citizens.”
Members of the Bedford chapter of Mothers Out Front plan to demonstrate as well.
“In 2021 Bedford Mothers Out Front rallied in Veterans Memorial Park as part of the statewide Rally for Clean Heat,” said longtime local activist Renu Bostwick. “We now come to Veterans Memorial Park joining forces with Third Act and others to send a strong message to Bank of America. We do not want our money used to finance fossil fuel investments, which fuels climate destruction, which threatens our children’s future.”
Roemer and her co-organizer Rick Johnson, a retired environmental lawyer, shared some details during an interview with a Third Act advisor on an online “hype call” on Tuesday.
“We’re going to have a lot of people coming from our village. Some of us will be on walkers, but we are going to be loud and we are going to make a fuss,” said Johnson, noting that most participants will be in their 80s.
The interviewer, Anna Goldstein, said, “There’s a rumor that a polar bear is going to show up carrying a sign that indicates his iceberg is melting.”
Johnson, pointing out that the action will be near a heavily-traveled road, said, “Whatever it takes to get the message across and get the attention of the media and passers-by.” He added, “We told the bank we’re coming.”
Added Roemer, “We have choreographed who’s going to be where and what sound systems we are going to be using.”
And Johnson mentioned, “We have the good fortune of having a fellow resident here named Peggy McKibben. That was a natural way to connect with Third Act.”
“We’re certainly hoping that we are making a difference in the world. But certainly, Third Act is making a difference for us,” Roemer remarked on the hype call. “This gives us a sense of agency, a sense of not being sidelined. It has been a wonderful community-building activity.”
Among the “working principles” of Third Act is an acknowledgment of age. “We will look for opportunities to relax and take care of our health. And we will watch our colleagues to make sure they have the help they need. We need to keep learning, and to educate ourselves – that’s part of the pleasure of this work, and we’ll try to provide those opportunities.
“But part of our work is simply to enjoy the world around us – and so we celebrate victories, lift up effort, offer support.”