In early February 2017, hours after the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to extract $3 billion in city funds from banking giant Wells Fargo, Matt Remle posted an exuberant tweet:
Remle—a longtime Seattle activist and high school counselor for native youth—regularly visits family on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, epicenter of demonstrations against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was financed in part by Wells Fargo. The pipeline would carry crude oil fracked from North Dakota to Illinois. Opponents say its construction jeopardizes tribal water supplies, destroys historic sites, and spurs the fossil fuel market, contributing to climate change.
Seattle’s new socially responsible banking ordinance, which Remle helped draft along with the staff of council member Kshama Sawant, sparked nationwide headlines when it passed on the same day that the Army Corps of Engineers approved the last phase of pipeline building, per president Donald Trump’s executive order.
It was one of several recent moments in the national spotlight for the Emerald City. The week before the council vote, Seattle-based department store Nordstrom, targeted by an anti-Trump boycott, announced it would drop Ivanka Trump’s fashion line because of poor sales performance. A day later, a federal judge in Seattle slammed the brakes on Trump’s seven-country immigration ban.
But Seattle isn’t going it alone. Davis, California, also voted on the same day to pull funds from Wells Fargo. And for months, Remle and his fellow activists have held conference calls with others who wanted to push for similar ordinances in their communities. “We just made a decision early on,” says Remle, “that we would use Seattle as our sort of tidal wave moment.”
James Gregory, a University of Washington labor historian, says anything that happens in Seattle is likely to reverberate in other left-leaning cities—such as San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles—that are unhappy with the policies of the Trump administration. “They’re almost tag-teaming each other to…be more and more progressive.”