Join the Chase Divestment Movement: Dispatches from a Growing Coalition

350Madison was one of many groups across the US to support the Cut The Chase Challenge, and encourage people to move their individual bank accounts.

Two weeks ago, social media was flooded with videos of people (including UUs and some pets) around the country cutting up their Chase Bank cards. JP Morgan Chase is the worst funder of fossil fuels — and individual divestment is one tactic in a bigger movement ecology that will pressure the institution to join us on the right side of history, and stop funding projects that are harming people and the planet. (The #CutTheChase Challenge was endorsed by UU Ministry for Earth, and earlier this year, Program Director Aly Tharp was arrested at an Extinction Rebellion action targeting Chase. UU Young Adults for Climate Justice Leader Amelia Diehl, the author of the piece, recently spoke on a national podcast about her Chase organizing.)

Whether or not you have a Chase card (check these guidelines), there are many ways to get involved in this growing mobilization. In Chicago, where I currently live, I’ve been organizing with Rising Tide Chicago as part of a national coalition targeting the bank. We take creative direct action to call out Chase as a way to confront the root causes of climate chaos, because we know capitalism can’t save us. 

Three Rising Tide Chicago members shut down a Chase branch on Sept 21, 2019, in solidarity with the Global Youth Climate Strike the day before.

Why is divestment important?

Behind every fossil fuel project are huge loans from many major banks. Chase Bank just happens to be the worst of them, having funneled $196 billion into fossil fuel projects, just in the three years after the Paris Accord was signed. It’s also the top funder of the most dangerous projects, like tar sands, Arctic drilling, deepwater drilling, and fracking. It is the only bank currently investing in all four companies that are expanding tar sands projects. 

Divestment is an urgently needed tactic to create a just transition. When Chase funds these fossil fuel projects, it’s also profiting off of human rights abuses, cultural genocide and the destruction of our planet. The fossil fuel divestment movement is only seven years old, but it follows the call of Indigenous leaders who have already been fighting the fossil fuel industry through a variety of avenues. When the Dakota Access pipeline was being built, Mazaska Talks (which means “money talks”) organized the largest coordinated boycott of fossil fuel financing in October 2017, asking individuals and institutions to pull their money from banks. 

Indigenous leaders and allies blocked the entrance to Chicago’s Chase Tower to disrupt the shareholder meeting on May 21, 2019.

The importance of local actions

While the #CutTheChaseChallenge was online, most of the action against Chase is on the ground in mass protests. When Chase Bank held their annual shareholders meeting in Chicago last May, our coalition of Chicago and Minnesota groups were ready with a not so warm welcome. A delegation of Anishnaabe women spoke out inside the meeting, as they and other Indigenous women have been doing at many of these meetings, to speak directly to CEO Jamie Dimon, demanding he stop the cultural genocide. Outside, we held a rally with local groups, which then escalated into shutting off the entrance; at the time, it was one of Chicago’s biggest climate actions.

Our momentum has only grown. Days after the shareholder meeting, we supported a banner drop during a Chase-sponsored “fun run”; had three of our members shut down a Chase branch for several hours in solidarity with the youth climate strike, and handed out Halloween candy to Chase Tower employees with a message urging them to call Jamie Dimon’s office – and we’re already gearing up for more.

And that’s just in Chicago — there are actions almost every week from coast to coast. Seattle groups have shut down all 44 of the city’s Chase branches at once; Minnesota youth recently staged a die-in and held a banjo dance party to disrupt a branch opening; NYC groups recently stormed the bank’s HQ. Jamie Dimon has been bird dogged so often he expects it at this point, and when I went to a recent Extinction Rebellion action here, police were waiting outside Chase Bank, even though our action didn’t target them.

Seattle activists shut down 4 Chase branches on Sept 30, 2019, with tripods posting an “eviction notice” outside the bank, and a die-in inside the branch.

Towards an anti-capitalist divestment movement

We are demanding that Chase Bank pull out all of its investments in fossil fuels immediately, and funnel those resources into more renewable energy projects. JP Morgan is the biggest US bank, and we will topple it with a thousand cuts – and its size means other banks will surely follow.  

But even if Chase Bank were to pull all of its money out tomorrow, we can’t rely on big institutions to fund a livable future – that’s green capitalism, and could easily replicate the same harms we face today. Divestment gives us the opportunity to ask, what do we need to be (re) investing in? Instead of making executives rich, we can funnel resources back into our communities; divert funds to reparations for black folks, Indigenous folks and other people of color, and create the anti-capitalist society we deserve.

Divestment works. Efforts from thousands of institutions and individuals have divested over $11 trillion dollars, including several faith institutions. The largest American coal company, Peabody Energy, filed for bankruptcy in 2016, pointing to divestment as one of the pressures. Shell recently called divestment a “material adverse effect” on its performance. And UUs have been organizing to get UUA and their local congregations to divest from fossil fuels, sparking important conversations in our communities. 

Grassroots leaders disrupted Chase CEO Jamie Dimon at the UCLA Founder to Futurists event celebrating 50 years of the internet, on Oct 29, 2019.

Want to get involved?

The fossil fuel industry knows it is dying – the Chase Divestment movement needs you to help make this just transition happen. Join the Chase divestment coalition! We are made up of dozens of groups, and have been steadily growing. We share resources and ideas to take creative actions (which are happening almost every week!) through a Google group, and we have a monthly call. Get in touch with the author if you’d like to join. Find out if a group is already targeting Chase in your community, or start a campaign.

There are a lot of ways to take direct action, from targeting bank branches, headquarters, and speaking events. Chase might be funding a fossil fuel project near you – join the resistance! You can send letters, do a call-in, make art, organize a group to close your accounts and move your money, and donate to groups taking direct action.

The next big national action is to collect 1,000 letters (yes, in real envelopes) and send them all at once to Jamie Dimon’s home address. Can you and some friends print off and sign some letters? Check out RAN’s Chase Letter Writing Tool Kit.

BONUS: Want to learn how to confront executives and candidates like Jamie Dimon? Rainforest Action Network is accepting applications for a hands-on bird dog training, Jan 11 and 12 in Oakland, with an action on Jan 13 in SF. There are 20 spots open, scholarships are available. Apply by Dec 13

Want to learn more? Read & share these resources.

The 2019 Banking on Climate Change Report.

Bill McKibben’s recent New Yorker article about divestment’s divestment news




Amelia Diehl
Amelia Diehl
Amelia Diehl is the Network Coordinator for the UU Young Adults for Climate Justice Network, and a Communications Specialist for UU Ministry for Earth. She's been with UUMFE since 2015 and is based in Chicago and the Great Lakes region. Her other movement homes include Rising Tide Chicago, SustainUS and freelance writing.