Protesters hang anti-Bank of America banner on stadium

By Steve Lyttle, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Andrew Dunn
Published in: Local News

Rainforest Action Network
Five people were arrested Wednesday morning after hanging a 70-foot banner on Bank of America Stadium, in what a coalition of protest groups said was the first in a series of actions aimed at Bank of America, Duke Energy and the Obama administration.

A spokesperson for the groups vowed additional protests in Charlotte during the next week, saying they will test the city’s new ordinance limiting such actions.

The Rainforest Action Network said its members were responsible for Wednesday’s banner, which carried the message “Bank of Coal.” On the banner, the word “America” was crossed out and replaced with “coal.”

Police said they took five people into custody – three who were hanging from the stadium with climbing equipment, another one inside the stadium and a fifth person on the ground.

Kerul Dyer, a spokesperson for the environmentalist group, identified the five arrested as

Robby Diesu, of Washington; Aleythea Dolstad, of Vashon Island, Wash.; Ben Kessler, of Denton, Texas; Sam Maron, of Atlanta; and Stephanie Taylor, of Portland, Ore.

In a news release, the Rainforest Action Network said it hung the banner because it says Bank of America has provided $6.74 billion in funding for the coal industry in the United States, according to information from Bloomberg financial news. But the group also said it is unhappy with what it claims is a “cozy relationship” between the Obama administration and the banking industry.

 Julie Morgan, of Action NC, said three groups -- the NC Coalition Against Corporate Power, Greenpeace, and the Rainforest Action Network -- will stage what were termed “massive protests” against Duke Energy and Bank of America during their shareholders meetings. Duke of America’s meeting is Thursday, and Bank of America shareholders meet next Wednesday.

Officials expect fewer than 100 protesters, and traffic delays should be minimal.

Morgan said the city’s ordinance that limits what items protesters can bring inside so-called Extraordinary Event zones, which are near the shareholder meetings, is “absurd.”

“Invoking this draconian law is another example of our democracy being sold to the highest bidder,” she said. “The City of Charlotte is protecting Bank of America’s bottom line. The Constitution and everyday people be damned.”

Bank of America has not commented on the coal activists' protests. The bank has said that it finances many different types of energy projects, including "considerable" investments in renewable energy.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and fire personnel responded about 7:15 a.m. and began removing the banner, which measured 70 feet by 25 feet, according to the Rainforest Action Network.

President Obama is scheduled to deliver his keynote speech during the Democratic National Convention at the stadium – part of the reason the protest group said it chose that site to hang the banner.

bank of america

Wednesday's protest was the latest in a string of anti-coal protests targeting the bank.

In November, eight protesters were arrested after scaling flagpoles in front of the bank's corporate headquarters and dropping a banner reading "Not with our money," and later barricading an entrance to the building.

The protest group said the five members of its group responsible for hanging the banner were trained climbers with safety gear. The sign was hung about 100 feet above the ground, on the Mint Street side of the stadium.

Around 8 a.m., police took photographs of the equipment the protesters used – braided lengths of climbing rope, nearly a dozen carabineers,

water bottles covered in duct tape and Clif energy bars favored by climbers.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe has told the Observer that protesters from across the country have stepped up their activities in the city since Democrats announced they would hold their national convention here in Charlotte. But police have used the protests – and large-scale events like the Fourth of July celebration in uptown – to refine their tactics dealing with protesters and large crowds.

“As we hone our skills, the consistency with which we respond, the way we communicate internally, it generally gets better as we go,” said Major Jeff Estes, who is helping the police department with convention planning. “A byproduct of that is speed. We hone our abilities to respond quickly to the ...trespassing at the stadium.”
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