Group deters radio station in Citigroup nomination

GW students active in the Rainforest Action Network witnessed a small success for their campaign against Citigroup Tuesday, when executive members of the Pacifica Network radio station withdrew their nomination of the bank’s vice president, Francesco Ricciolo, to its executive board.

Activists said they oppose the bank because Citigroup supports projects around the country and world that hurt the environment.

Freshman Madvha Kantor attended the station’s executive board meeting Sunday evening with three other GW students and Valerie Orth, a graduate of Tufts University who works with Green Corps to organize students for different causes.

RAN activists believe that Ricciolo’s nomination to Pacifica’s board would compromise the station’s mission.

(Pacifica is) the station where people can voice their opinions, Kantor said. It’s a progressive radio station.

Green Corps delegate Orth said audience members raised concerns about the nomination of a Citigroup executive to the station’s board during the public comment segment of the meeting.

It was just getting rowdier and rowdier, people were getting really angry as it started focusing on Citibank, she said.

Attention then shifted to Pacifica President Mary Francis Berry, Kantor said.

She stood up and said, `I don’t want to hear this any more and adjourned the meeting,’ Orth said.

Orth said people in the audience left their seats to prevent Berry and other board members from leaving the room, and half of the board members returned to their places. Berry and a few others managed to leave, she said.

I found out Tuesday morning over e-mail that the Pacifica Board withdrew Citibank’s proposal to be on the board, citing opposition from RAN, Orth said. The e-mail was from her organizing director at Green Corps, Antha Williams, she said.

Kantor said this event was the first small success for the RAN cause he has witnessed since he got involved this year.

I really felt that the campaign that we’re running is working, Kantor said. It gave me a stronger spark of hope that we can stop Citibank from using funds in a destructive way.

Orth has been working to rouse enough support to start a RAN chapter at GW. One of the first events to raise awareness of the group’s concerns took place Sept. 14, when students kept payphones on the Marvin Center’s ground floor busy placing calls to Citigroup offices throughout the day in a campaign dubbed Prank the Bank.

RAN, in conjunction with members of the GW Action Coalition and GW Free the Planet, convinced GW students walking past the table to call Citibank’s customer service line and ask where the money in the bank’s accounts goes.

I joined the coalition when it formed for the (April 16 International Monetary Fund)/World Bank riots, and we believe this event deals with some of the same issues: globalization and unfair trade, said sophomore Lyra Spang, a GWAC member.

The Prank the Bank campaign against Citigroup started nationwide at 9 a.m. and continued until 4:30 p.m. The event was organized to cause an influx of calls to Citibank, making it impossible for the company to hear from customers, Orth said.

We’re trying to shut (Citibank) down, Orth said at the event.

Representatives from Citigroup were unable to be reached for comment.

We are sending a strong message to Citibank that, as the most destructive bank in the world, their actions will not be tolerated, Kantor said.

-Kate Stepan contributed to this report.

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