My Bank Is Censoring My Freedom Of Speech
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I am the founder of an environmental activism and EPA watchdog group called SuperfundResearch.org, and a professional filmmaker that has worked with 2014 Grammy Nominees.
SuperfundResearch.org takes on massive environmental campaigns in The US, from running public education campaigns about cancer clusters, to investigating and exposing corrupt EPA officials, to fighting oil companies that are using eminent domain to taking away hard working American's homes to build pipelines, to running a controversial data mining project where we use FOIA requests to obtain the document caches for all 1,328 EPA Superfund toxic waste sites in The US and work to publicly release over 500,000,000 pages of public records, for free.
A few months ago I was out on the road conducting investigations into various toxic incidents, as charitable efforts, when I decided to take on Plains All American Pipeline, for taking homes away from Arkansas residents in order to build the Diamond Pipeline. Plains All American Pipeline is the company that caused the Santa Barbara Oil Spill, last year, another cause I worked on and fought for.
A few days later, I went to use my debit card, a PayPal/Netspend/Bancorp debit account, and my access to my account had been revoked. I was told the next day that they had blocked access because I was using my account for "business purposes." However, I have not ever used my account for business purposes, not so much as a box of paperclips, and they had no evidence that I had done this, so they were forced to turn my account back on. Why my bank was looking over my shoulder, into my life, I'll never know.
While I do have a fan page for SuperfundResearch.org, I also have a personal fan page which is not monetized, and neither of these pages generate a profit, as my environmental firm is entirely self funded.
A week later I went to use my card and it was shut down, again. This time they told me that I would have to add the person who funds my work to my account, if I wanted to keep my account. This is the equivalent of being told your boss at your job needs to have access to your bank account, in order for you to receive a paycheck, which is absurd. When I protested, they, once again backpedaled, and told me that I was not allowed to use my account for "business." I pointed out that I had been using this same account, for three years with no issues, but it didn't matter.
But, again, I am not using my account for business transactions, and never have. My expenses entailed hotel rooms, gas, food, and as a prolific US traveler, who has done five-hundred thousand miles of ground travel to over fifteen hundred cities, in the last five years, I am already on the road, in my personal life. It's an added bonus that this travel gives me the ability to also fight for the causes I believe in and not one bit of my journeys are a "business expense."
When I pointed out that they needed proof that I was using the account for business they said, "Most normal Americans don't pay to promote Facebook, posts, so your bank considers this a business expense."
My response was that Facebook, where my business partner is an employee, gives its employees ad spend to promote personal causes they care about, and this is not a considered a business expense. Many Americans use Facebook promoted posts to promote their personal ideals. In my case, it was very clear they were just looking for an excuse to shut me down, grabbing at every straw they could latch onto, as the reason.
When this line of reasoning didn't work for them, they told me, very clearly, "If you use your account to promote another Facebook post, we will close it. Also, we are blocking your ability to receive funds from outside sources." When I complained about censoring my voice, and shutting off my flow of money, they sent me a piece of my contract with PayPal that said, "We reserve the right to close any account that is being used for purposes we don't agree with."
When this happened, they cut me off from my funding. If I didn't have friends in Silicon Valley, I'd be homeless, right now. At the time this all happened, I was in a meth infested neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky, driving a thirty thousand dollar BMW, with over twenty-thousand dollars in cash on me, that I had to carry with me, in my guitar case, because that was the only way I could have access to cash to keep traveling.
With my accounts blocked I was unable to rent hotel rooms, left to stay in places which were not safe for a person carrying so much cash and valuables. At one point I found myself staring out of tweeker hole in a set of grungy motel curtains, hoping the crack party in the parking lot, at 4am, didn't transition to looting me for fifty-thousand dollars.
Finally, I was forced to stop fighting environmental causes, retreat, and find myself an emergency home on the East Coast, because I was thousands of miles away from my house in Oregon when this happened, and I was so worn down that I could not fight anymore.
Not only did they silence me but the sudden move costed me twenty-thousand dollars, out of the money I use to educate communities about cancer clusters.
I limped into my new home, barely able to stay afloat, and it's taken me over five months to recover from the damage they've caused. I'm OK, now, but I am still fighting to recover from everything that happened.
My activism work was systematically shut down by corporate censorship.
If I had to think back to a time in my life when I felt the most scared, it was when I was being dominated by my bank, left in a situation where I could have been easily robbed and killed. During that period of time, I thought a lot about what happened to Michael Jordan's father. He was killed when he pulled over to the side of the road, in a nice car, to get some sleep, and some nights, I did end up sleeping in my car.
Apparently, to PayPal/NetSpend/Bancorp, protecting the bottom line of polluters and corrupt government officials was more important than my safety or rights as an American Citizen, and it has nothing to do with promoted Facebook posts, because I have been running campaigns for years, using this very same account.
Yesterday, five months later, I made a phone call to find out where a deposit from the federal government had gone, because I had not received it. I was told that my bank had received the funds but they are withholding it from me, and I have had enough.
I am being dominated by corruption because of my work, and as a US Citizen, I do not believe my bank has the right to repeatedly interfere with my life and freedom of speech, just to protect the CEO of Plains All American Pipeline, who sits on the board of the Texas Federal Reserve, corrupt EPA officials, or anyone else, for that matter.
I believe everyone should sign this petition, in order to tell this bank that corporate censorship is not OK, that our Founding Fathers wrote the constitution to protect our freedom of speech, and that so viciously censoring an activist, jeopardizing his life in the process is, pretty much, the most anti-American thing a company can do, and it really sucks!
Together, we can fight these giants. Together we can beat them. Together we can get justice and show these corporate slugs that it's going to take more than shutting down a bank account to silence this activist.
Thank you for reading and thank you, in advance, for your generous support. If you strongly support this cause, please help get the word out by signing it and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter.
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