A round-up of stories, videos, media coverage, movement building, and campaign impact from the National Day of Action to Stop Dirty Banks. Blog by Vanessa Arcara, Third Act President.

Protest Banner to Stop Dirty Banks

The 3.21.23 Day of Action is in the books! Here at Third Act, we are proud, excited, and fired up to keep pressuring the big banks to stop financing dirty fossil fuels. And we want to take a minute to celebrate the incredible turnout, creativity, and effectiveness of the thousands and thousands of Third Actors, everyday heroes, activists, partners, and passersby that amplified our collective voices calling on the banks to invest in a better future.

Message to the Big Dirty Banks: Stop Financing Climate Destruction

We dove into this work to pressure the Big Banks because we know that older Americans hold a large portion of our nation’s wealth—that the banks might care more about the demands of their longest-standing clients than of younger folks whose lives depend on climate action. And because we want to back up youth who have been fighting for their future, and help grow our movement.

For the 3.21.23 National Day of Action to Stop Dirty Banks, there were 102 registered events in 30 states and Washington, DC, involving thousands of people. These events, large and small, were organized and supported by Third Act Working Groups, with the help of more than 50 national partners, and countless local and regional partners. 

This short video highlights the powerful, diverse, and joyful ways that people shared our messages with the banks through speeches, art, music, street theater, civil disobedience, marches, rallies, sit-ins, and die-ins. Here are highlights of some of the bigger events: the large rally and Rocking Chair Rebellion in front of the nation’s capitol in Washington, DC; especially large marches and rallies in New York City and Boston; chain saws cutting giant credit cards in Alaska, a paper maché Orca eating credit cards in Seattle, Bigfoot ripping up credit cards in Oregon, a multi-generational non-violent direct action and a giant street mural in SF; and events and actions at bank branches and impacted places across the US. Make sure to check out Bill McKibben’s shoutout to all the rock star rocking chair organizers in his Rock on! Substack.


Customers cut up their credit cards to chants of “Cut it out or we will cut it up,” demonstrating their resolve to move their money out of the big banks, if the banks won’t move out of fossil fuel investments. Four videos of Third Actors cutting their credit cards showed some deeply climate-impacted places; Hawaii, the coral reefs off of Florida, and the fire-scarred forests of California. Air, fire, earth and water were used to demonstrate how banks are financing the destruction of the planet through their investments in fossil fuels. People delivered letters and Banking on our Future Pledges to their local bank branches and shared letters with bank staff, asking them to deliver the messages to bank leadership. More than 24,000 people have now taken the Banking on our Future Pledge (you can still sign if you haven’t yet!), and more than 2,500 people sent faxes on March 21 to each of the banks’ CEOs pleading with them to stop investing in climate destruction. 

Big Banks: Are You Listening?

For years, people have been asking these big four banks to transform their business to align with the Paris Climate Accord, but the banks’ leaders are not listening. So, this Day of Action was an exclamation point – but not an end point – in how we are escalating and communicating our message to the banks.

One of the letters faxed to Bank CEOs said “I hang on to the thread of hope that keeps me going. I will not let go. Will one of you hear my voice? …. I am alive and care deeply about all of life. My solitary voice is all I have. So I will keep begging PLEASE, please stop funding fossil fuels!”

At several of the bank branches, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo in California and Chase in Vermont, bank staff literally locked the doors and called the police rather than accept the letters from elderly customers. At the Rocking Chair Rebellion 10 were arrested at a Chase bank branch in Washington, DC on March 22 for singing in the bank’s lobby.

The banks can lock out messengers and not listen to their customers and concerned community members, but we know the banks’ leadership are reading the news. The Day of Action received widespread media coverage, raising the visibility of our campaign to stop investments in fossil fuel expansion. Coverage included the The New York Times, The Guardiantwice, NPR, The Washington Post , The Independent, Democracy Now, Reuters, and more than 50 other newspaper articles, radio stories, TV news stories and podcasts. 

Third Act and our partners and Working Groups had tremendous reach via social media, with posts, videos, actions, photos, and links being shared via #StopDirtyBanks, #32123, and #ActOnClimate (in these links you can see a compilation of posts for those hashtags). One couple posted their first-ever Instagram post showcasing the cutting up of their Bank of America credit card (they were customers for 27 years!) and reciting a poem calling out the banks – “They are the past, the future’s here at last, as green projects sweep across the land. But the banks are full of greed, though they know just what we need. They refuse to lend a helping hand. Stop fossil fuels.”

Our Movement Is Growing

The 3.21.23 Day of Action was the first big in-person climate action since the pandemic and it was great to see people back out in the streets and being led by older Americans. These actions were organized by a fantastic mix of experienced old-timers and older newbies. A 90-year-old elder in Bedford, MA remarked “This was my first protest demonstration. It was wonderful”. What made it so good? “I was doing something important with other people, rather than just getting through the day one way or another.” 

Based on our feedback surveys from event hosts, more than half of respondents said that they had never organized a protest or event like this before. For older Americans, with life and professional experience, often with more financial resources than younger people, and with more time on their hands, Third Act has offered a place to fit in within the wider climate and progressive change movement. We are excited and committed to welcoming new people and growing our movement.

We are thrilled that 53 national partners and numerous local partners collaborated on the Day of Action. Some of them include, Stop the Money Pipeline, Sierra Club, Stand.Earth, Hip Hop Caucus, Climate Hawks Vote, Elders Climate Action and Elders Action Network, Greenpeace, Dayenu, Greenfaith, and Idle No More SF Bay. These groups and many more mobilized their memberships in creative ways. We heard powerful speakers uplift their vision for a clean, healthy, vibrant future and how transforming the banks’ investments into climate solutions can accelerate a just transition. A better future is possible. In fact, Rebecca Solnit, a Third Act Advisor, at the San Francisco event, invited us all to fill the “imagination gap” and that envisioning a better future is necessary as part of our work.

An Exclamation Point, Not an End Point

Our movement’s campaigns to divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions will continue to escalate and build on the energy from the 3.21.23 Day of Action. Our partnerships will deepen and our memberships will grow. 

The most immediate next step is to take action as part of the Shareholder Showdown and work to pass shareholder resolutions on climate change that are pending at the big banks’ Annual General Meetings this April and May. You can sign the Stop the Money Pipeline’s coalition petition asking state treasurers and public pensions funds to vote YES on these pending shareholder resolutions on climate. The petitions will be delivered soon in advance of the AGM votes. 

You can also sign the petition joining with New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams calling on the Mets to break-up with Citibank over its dirty investments and rename “Citi Stadium” – perhaps back to Shea Stadium? The Mets’ contract with Citi for stadium naming rights comes up in 2028.  

We will continue to communicate with and engage the leadership at the big four banks and escalate our pressure by enlisting commercial clients with a climate conscience to break-up with the dirty banks.

Our clarion call: Fossil Banks? No Thanks! 

About the author:

Vanessa is the President and co-founder of Third Act. She is an activist and administrator, a gardener and a mother. Vanessa began her activist work in the world of food justice at Slow Food USA, SolidarityNYC, and on small farms across the northeast of the United States. Her writing has been published in State of the World: Innovations that Nourish the Planet. For the last decade she’s worked on the climate crisis at 350.org, helping coordinate actions big and small. She lives in upstate New York with her family.

Featured Image photo credit: Brooke Anderson, Movement Photographer