Little Guys vs. Corporate Giants: Protesters Closing Bank of America Accounts
"We want to hold the bank responsible for what they are not doing. We bailed them out, we gave them all this money, and then there are people with no place to go," says Veronica Wansley.
Wansley, a home care worker, is helping to organize Midwest Rising through her job as a field organizer for Missouri Home Care Union.
Midwest Rising organizers say Bank of America is a bad corporate citizen. They say the bank is executing improper foreclosures and not reinvesting in neighborhoods, as well as charging high fees.
The Charlotte, North Carolina bank is the nation's largest and took $45 billion in federal bailout money. It's been a huge player in the national foreclosure crisis. Early last year, BoA made news foreclosing on houses for which they didn't even own the mortgages.
"There are many examples of how Bank of America is working alongside individuals, businesses and nonprofits to manage through economic recovery and preserve neighborhoods," Bank of America spokeswoman Christina Beyer Toth writes in an email.
She points to programs meant to help repair consumer credit and outreach efforts to help homeowners who are in danger of defaulting on loans. She also mentions a "Home Transition Guide," which is sent to "delinquent customers who will need to transition from their homes." It outlines options like short sales to prevent foreclosure, and includes budgeting tools.
This is too little, too late, say Midwest Rising organizers.
"Enough is enough," says Jeff Ordower, a Midwest Rising organizer who is the director of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. He says he's got fifteen confirmed people closing their accounts, and expects a few more by go time.
While a dozen-plus accounts being closed is unlikely to bring the giant bank to its knees, convergence organizers are hoping to send a message. They've put together a list of local banks and credit unions that they say are far better options.
The Bank of America pullout, which takes place at 4 p.m. today downtown at the 8th and Market location, kicks off a whole weekend of events and programming. Most of the events take place at the J.C. Penny Conference Center at University of Missouri-St. Louis.
About 400 people are coming from all over the country, Ordower says, and groups that work in labor, environmental justice, anti-racism and community organizing will be on hand. There will be workshops about civil disobedience, direct action and the economy, among others.
Check out the full schedule of events online.