Last october, when Matt Remle suggested to Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant that the city close its accounts with Wells Fargo—a bank that provided key financing to the Dakota Access Pipeline—divestment was a word more often associated with the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, not a battle over land, water and civil rights in 2017.
But Remle, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, writer, activist and editor of Last Real Indians (an online publication), was onto something. His conversations with Sawant led to a bill that would make Seattle the first city in the nation to divest from Wells Fargo. Months later—following rallies, public testimony and mass protests at Wells Fargo branches—the council voted unanimously for the divestment ordinance. Although the city’s $3 billion represents a fraction of the money that flows through Wells Fargo every year, Remle sees the vote as more than just symbolic. Other cities are now also pursuing divestment strategies. It’s a mass movement that hits the bank where it matters: its bottom line.
Remle knows that the city can’t divest from every bank that engages in practices that are antithetical to Seattle’s progressive values. So, he’s turning his sights to a new strategy: a city-owned and -operated bank that could manage the city’s money and finance affordable housing and economic development. (A tribal bank is another possibility.) This past summer, mayoral primary candidates Bob Hasegawa and Nikkita Oliver helped push the idea of a city-run bank into Seattle’s mainstream political discourse; sustained efforts by activists like Remle could turn that campaign talking point into a reality.
Read about the rest of 2017's Most Influential Seattleites here.