by Ash Lauth, The Vote Solar Initiative
What’s worse than being the #1 financier of the coal industry? Fleecing students and young people 1 trillion dollars in order to fund it. Yesterday, student debt topped an astonishing 1 trillion dollars. It’s not only the largest financial crisis ever, it all rests on our generation. What did we do? We took to the streets for 1T Day to take back our education from the clutches of Big Banks.
Yesterday was also a day when one of the worst banks saw a well-deserved day of action. Bank of America felt the ire of students across the country in the National Day of Student Action on Bank of America, and heard the demands of young people calling for an end to coal financing, home foreclosure, and crushing student debt.
BofA has a long record of enriching the 1% at the expense of the 99% and the climate. So environmental and economic justice groups joined together to demand that BoA stop bankrupting our future. EAC specifically partnered up with Rainforest Action Network and students across the country to take action on Bank of America with a slew of actions at local branches.
Students and young people are one of the most important demographics to Bank of America — we are a huge emerging customer base and a significant chunk of their business. Protesting sent out a clear message about how we feel about 1 trillion dollars of debt, but how we feel about funding coal and contributing to climate chaos.
We can only imagine that the phone of BofA CEO Brian Moynihan was off the hook with reports of protests at branches all over the US. Yesterday, students across the nation mobilized on a bank bent on keeping them perpetually in debt; they wielded power to end the financing of dirty, destructive coal; they used energy and strength to create a wave that carries over to a surge of action at Bank of America's shareholder meeting in Charlotte, NC on May 9th.
Here are some visuals and stories from actions that happened in this epic day against student debt and climate change:
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
A delegation of students from UNC struck out to confront Bank of America, delivering letters to all of the employees in the branch and persuading the manager of the branch to fax a letter to Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America. Then they took to the sidewalk in front of the bank to publicly read the letter they had faxed. “Today we’re delivering our demands to Bank of America to stop financing dirty coal and bankrupting our future” said Tait Chandler, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, “Students across the country are using their financial power to demand Bank of America clean up their act, and we’re delivering those demands right here in North Carolina, where Bank of America is headquartered.” Students communicated that Bank of America’s continued funding of mountain top removal was not acceptable, and should be terminated immediately. Petitioning followed, with a good response from the public. Check out a video of the action here.
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
In Amherst, 5 colleges convened together to “celebrate” 1T Day. Folks sang spoofed songs, including "Happy Debt Day" which according to UMass student Jared Schy, "was Happy Birthday reworked to the theme of student debt (We're soon to surpass/A critical Mass/Not even one billion/Student debt's now one trillion) and then doing jazz fingers and gravelly singing "and growing moooooooooore" in front of about thirty community members and students while we blew out the candles on our cake. I had a blast getting to welcome people to the event like it was a carnival or something and told them that this is almost as a momentous day as when Armstrong landed on the moon and they'd be telling their grandchildren about it for years.”
Students also burned their loan statements in protest and shared knowledge about the current state of student debt/corporatization of schools. “That was really empowering and meaningful and learning filled for all those involved,” said Jared.
George Washington University
GW students took action against rising student debt, particularly because of GW’s ties to Bank of America. The GW Progressive Student Union - Student Labor Action Project dropped a banner on campus reading “ Severe ties with Sallie Mae and Bank of America” and “It’s time to fight back.” PSU-SLAP are united as students against the profiteering of education, families, and communities. The students demanded that the Administration severe all ties with both Sallie Mae and Bank of America, the first and third largest student loan lenders in the country. Both companies have been predatory against students and former students, and have profited unjustly from them. This is a significant action, “because it will offer students the opportunity to gain resources and information that will hopefully lead to larger mobilizations of action and self-advocacy,” said Chiara Corso, GWU Sophomore. As GW students articulated, it’s time to fight back and help make a more egalitarian educational system in this country, this is just the first step. Robert Stephens, GWU 2nd Year Law Student agreed: “We can do better.”