On Monday, Occupy Philadelphia joined the Earth Quaker Action Team for a non-violent, theatrical protest. Protestors referred to the event as a mass “die-in” and gathered to oppose PNC Bank’s financial support of companies that perform mountain top removal coal mining and natural gas hydrofracking.
More than 100 demonstrators, led by organizer Zachary Hershman, marched from city hall to the PNC branch located at 1511 Walnut St. and simultaneously “dropped dead” to represent the impact of these mining practices on the human population.
The group then marched to 1600 Market St., PNC’s regional headquarters, and repeated the die-in as bank employees and others watched.
Demonstrators were separated into groups, representing four areas that EQAT said it believes are suffering as a result of mountain top removal: water, economy, mountains and democracy.
The protestors shouted chants as they marched through the streets making claims like, “PNC is poison and that’s not green” and “From Appalachia to Pennsylvania we share the same fight—we both know water is a human right.”
According to EQAT, PNC is the largest U.S. financier of coal companies that engage in mining. The organization claims more than 500 mountaintops have been destroyed because of mining and the actions of these companies have violated the Clean Water Act, specifically in the southern Appalachian region.
Hershman reported to the protestors that pregnant women living in the areas affected by toxic water have a 42 percent chance of having birth defects.
As part of PNC’s corporate responsibility initiative, its website states, “On a daily basis, we strive to reduce our impact on the natural resources that surround us.” PNC’s Vice President of Corporate Communications Fred Solomon, declined to comment on the issue.
Trevor Bernard Jones, a PNC customer, was unaware of the impending protest. “I think Occupy likes to protest everything, as long as it is a bank,” he said. “They are going to protest PNC regardless. I think they are against capitalism, and if they are, they should go somewhere else.”
A similar call for attention took place on Oct. 26, when a group of Occupy Pittsburgh supporters marched to a downtown branch and interrupted daily business.
When the Philadelphia demonstration concluded, protestors marched back to Occupy Philly’s headquarters outside of City Hall.
“The dying we are doing is not symbolic—it’s about real people dying,” Hershman said.