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Detroit Lakes Wells Fargo shut down temporarily after protester locks herself to table

Protesters at Wells Fargo Bank in Detroit Lakes Tuesday afternoon. Nathan Bowe/Tribune

Wells Fargo Bank in Detroit Lakes was shut down for a brief time Tuesday afternoon after a protester locked herself to a table in the lobby.

Disabled veteran Jessie Campbell left after about 20 minutes of negotiation with local law enforcement and bank officials. She was not arrested.

She was one of a dozen or so protesters who picketed outside Wells Fargo after arriving from Camp Turtle Island - Water Protector Sanctuary, located at the intersection of County Road 4 and Highway 113 in the center of the White Earth Reservation.

The protesters want Wells Fargo to divest itself from funding oil pipeline projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline, the site of a long, bitter protest near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota that drew international attention last year.

"Wells Fargo funds these oil companies, they fund the oil pipeline, which shot rubber bullets at peaceful protesters last year," Campbell said in an interview after leaving the bank.

"This day, Dec. 5, has significance for me," she said in a written statement to the bank manager. "I am a combat vet, and as such, I was horrified to see our government allow a private corporation (Tiger Swan) to use militarized forces on peaceful civilians at Standing Rock, N.D."

Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steven Todd said the protesters inside the bank left after about 20 minutes, after Campbell presented her statement to law enforcement, which passed it to the bank manager. Protesters picketed on public sidewalks outside the bank for 60 to 90 minutes, he said.

"I'm glad we were able to resolve it peacefully and no arrests were necessary," he said. He thanked Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander and his officers for their help on the scene. "They acted in a very supportive capacity—I appreciate the relationship we have," he said.

Bill Paulson, a veteran who helped organize the Wells Fargo protest, said the date was set to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the veterans arrival at Standing Rock.

"If you were at Standing Rock in December when the army of the people, 3,000 veterans, and 4,000 water protectors strong united in prayer, ready to march into an icy hell, you witnessed the perseverance and dedication of our community leaders," Paulson said on the Camp Turtle island Facebook page.

In an interview, he praised local law enforcement's measured response to the protest.

"As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I'm very, very proud of the way the officers handled themselves and the way these people (protesters) handled themselves today as they created awareness across the state of Minnesota," he said.

Financial documents from Energy Transfer Partners, the Dakota Access Pipeline builder, lists a number of large banking institutions that each provided several hundred million dollars in credit for the project, including: Citibank (which loaned the most at $522 million), Wells Fargo (which loaned the second-highest amount at $467 million); Credit Suisse; Royal Bank of Canada; Suntrust Bank; BNP Paribas; HSBC; Morgan Stanley; Bank of America; and JP Morgan Chase, according to the fact-checking website Snopes.

“Like a large number of other banks, Wells Fargo has a relationship with energy companies across the conventional and renewable energy spectrum,” Wells Fargo spokesperson Staci. L. Schiller said in an email. “We respect all those engaging in the conversation surrounding fossil fuel exploration and development as well as renewable and alternative energy. While conventional energy remains an important element of our daily lives, Wells Fargo is also committed to participating in sustainable energy projects for the future of our communities.”

Since 2012, Schiller added, “Wells Fargo has invested more than $70 billion in clean technology and other environmentally sustainable businesses. More than eight percent of all solar photovoltaic and wind energy generated in the U.S. in 2016 came from facilities owned in whole or in part by Wells Fargo. Additionally, we have reduced our own greenhouse gas emissions by 36 percent since 2008, and now, 100 percent of our global electricity consumption for 2017 and going forward will be met with renewable energy.”

Dakota Access Pipeline is now open. The Camp Turtle Island protesters want to see customers quit doing business with Wells Fargo until it opts not to fund similar projects.

Although the people of Camp Turtle Lake are now focused on Enbridge and its plans for the Line 3 oil pipeline across Minnesota, they haven't forgotten the protests at Standing Rock.

"The local police and National Guard of Minnesota are not our enemies," Paulson said on the Facebook site. "They have in no way used force against us or harassed us (Minnesota also pulled their police force out of Standing Rock due to the treatment of the people at the camps). Unlike Morton County in North Dakota, we have an opportunity as water protectors to build a relationship with the police to ask them to stand down when Enbridge and Tiger Swan asks them to meet our peaceful prayer camps and actions with force and violence. We believe there is a real chance here to find a middle ground."

He called for help from people interested in protecting the environment, and from active and retired veterans. "We need you now more than ever. The skills, knowledge, and experience you all have will be the turning of the tide in this fight," Paulson said.

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