Brixton Barclays

Although my memories of the 1960s are far from clear, I’m fairly sure that the first protest I ever took part in, back when I was a student in Manchester was outside a Barclays Bank branch not far from the university in 1964. Then we were protesting against its support for Apartheid in South Africa, and stood outside handing out leaflets and calling on customers entering or leaving to move their accounts. At the time I think almost all banks were more ethical than Barclays.

A few years later, in 1969, students in the UK began the wider Boycott Barclays campaign, which became widespread and continued until after Barclays eventually sold their South African subsidiary in 1986. By then many people and organisations across society had withdrawn their accounts from Barclays causing them a loss of deposits estimated at around £6 billion a year and the number of new student accounts taken out each year had roughly halved.

It’s hard to understand why Barclays held out so long, allowing political and ideological positions to override a clear financial case for changing their policies, and disappointing that a business which had its roots in Quakerism was seen to become one of the dirtiest of banks. Perhaps as one of the largest transnational businesses in the world it simply decided it was not going to allow itself to be told what to do by protesters. But eventually it had to change.

Barclays is now under attack again for its support of fossil fuels and in particular of fracking, having invested more the $30bn in climate-wrecking fracking schemes, making it by far the worst bank in Europe. To have any chance of avoiding disastrous global warming we need to drastically cut the use of coal, oil, petrol and gas and other carbon-containing materials as fuel. Fracking not only produces dirty fuel, it also leads to extensive pollution of water sources and earthquakes; it has been banned in Germany, France, Ireland and Bulgaria in the EU and in other countries, provinces and states around the world, with further bans seeming likely.

After protesting on the busy main street in front of the Barclays branch for around an hour, the protesters held a short protest inside. They were asked to leave and agreed to do so after a few short speeches which made their position clear.

More at Climate Protest at Barclays Bank

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