Scores of residents – most of them in their 70s and 80s – gathered across The Great Road from the Bank of America branch at the Bedford Marketplace on Tuesday afternoon and called for an end to major banks’ financial support for the fossil-fuel industry.
The protesters employed an array of signs, intermittent songs and chants, and a little street theatre to send their message.
Tuesday’s event was part of a National Day of Action, organized by Third Act, a climate action movement for people older than 60. Third Act was co-founded by longtime climate activist Bill McKibben; there’s a chapter at Carleton Willard Village, where his mother Peggy is a resident.
Peggy McKibben was among dozens of Carleton Willard residents who formed the core of the protest at Veterans Memorial Park. They were joined by several members of Mothers Out Front of Bedford and several individual demonstrators from Bedford and neighboring towns.
Third Act contends that Bank of America, along with JPMorgan Chase, CitiBank, and Wells Fargo, channel funds into fossil fuel projects that are responsible for the harmful emissions scientists have linked to extreme weather.
At its peak Tuesday, close to 150 people participated, showing all kinds of signs, including a 20-foot-long banner that said simply, “Climate Change,” with a childlike drawing of a car and a house and a person engulfed by rising water.
The Bedford bank had been advised of the day of action, and although the entire demonstration was across the street, a security guard from Allied Universal stood by outside the front door.
There was police presence – for a few minutes. Lt. Richard Vitale dropped by to remind everyone that they should navigate The Great Road only along crosswalks.
There were several folks using walkers and canes, although a few came on bicycles. Brown and Lois Pulliam, 2021 Bedford Citizens-of-the-Year, joined their Carleton Willard neighbors. Fran Ludwig was there – she said she was Bill McKibben’s eighth-grade science teacher. Bedford’s Joanne Glover arrived with her bagpipes, and at one point led a procession around Veterans Memorial Park.
There were chants – “Hey, hey, American bank; don’t put the climate in the tank.” There were familiar melodies with revised lyrics, courtesy of Don Yansen, such as: “How many forests must burn to the ground before we can see the flames? And how many rivers must burst their banks before we cry out for change? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.”
Rick Johnson, one of the organizers of the event, wore a polar bear costume for the occasion, carrying a sign reading, “Don’t Melt My Home.” Johnson referenced Monday’s release of the report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “That really shook things up,” he said, noting that “a key thing is financing and the critical role of banks.”
A highlight was a “credit-card cutting party.” Johnson announced, “We’re going to videotape it.” He led a chant: “We’ve got to keep the climate cool/no more funding fossil fuel.” Then he proclaimed, “OK, let’s cut them up.”
Jill Sandeen, who came over to the rally from Concord, said she cut her Citi credit card because “politicians are moving too slowly, and we’ve got to put pressure on the money.”
Retired Wilmington High School science teacher Ed Tivnan destroyed a Chase credit card. He pointed out that “not only are the banks funding fossil fuels; they are funding lobbyists to prevent legislation” that could mitigate climate crises.
Rebecca Cutting, an attorney who in the 1970s helped develop the schools’ integrated Bedford Environmental Education Program (BEEP), shredded her Citi credit card after what she said was 32 years.
The group received many honks of support from passing vehicles, although there were periods when only an occasional vehicle drove by.
The day of action broke up at 3 p.m. after a group picture and some patriotic songs, both on bagpipes and a cappella.