New York – Today, nearly 400 people took over the lobbies of two bank headquarters, as part of a larger day of action on Wall Street to demand accountability, jobs and an end to predatory lending.
Chanting loudly and bearing signs that read, “Enough is Enough” and “Invest in America,” the group first took over the lobby of JP Morgan Chase, demanding a meeting with CEO Jamie Dimon. The protestors – a diverse group of foreclosure victims, under-served individuals, community activists, workers and unemployed people – were unified in blaming the banks and Wall Street for America’s economic crisis. They called for banks to ‘step up to the plate’ in rebuilding the American economy.
“People are angry. The big banks created the foreclosure crisis, sank the economy, and then got a taxpayers’ bailout, but nothing has changed for the rest of us,” said Darryl Pleasant, a member of Community Voices Heard in Harlem. “Enough is enough. It’s time we take the fight straight to the banks and hold them accountable.”
The group specifically challenged JP Morgan Chase on its practice of charging fees for low-income people to use Electronic Benefits Transfer Cards (EBT) and lower principal amounts for mortgages for struggling homeowners, which he refused to do. “It’s sick and wrong that these huge banks are profiting from the lowest-income people,” said Pleasant. “We demand that Chase change this policy immediately.”
The protestors then marched to the Wachovia headquarters – a subsidiary of Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo is the trustee of ten multi-family rental buildings in the Bronx. These buildings are in foreclosure because Millbank Realty – the private equity firm that purchased them at the height of the real estate boom – defaulted on its loans and has left the buildings in severe disrepair. The group called on Wells Fargo CEO John Stump to end the racial disparities in lending practices that have led to African Americans and Latinos getting worse loans than white borrowers regardless of their income and to take responsibility for the buildings and ensure that tenants have appropriate services and amenities.
“We have no heat or hot water. We have disabled neighbors in wheelchairs that live on the 5th floor with no elevator. This is unacceptable,” said Graziela Torres, a tenant in one of the buildings. “Wells Fargo must take responsibility for this situation and fix the condition we’re living in.”
At each rally, protestors left a letter for each CEO, laying out their demands. Manuel Christopher, another Milbank tenant read them aloud. “We believe JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo have the opportunity to step up to the plate and be leaders in rebuilding the American economy by divesting in predatory practices, keeping families in their homes, restore fairness in lending, and investing in local economic development projects that create jobs.”
Later in the day, the group will join the 10,000 people at the Showdown on Wall Street where working families and community members are mobilizing one of the largest gatherings ever organized against big banks. The marchers will also be calling for accountability, job creation and an end to predatory lending practices from Wall Street institutions like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
The protest is organized by National People’s Action and local community groups including New York City AIDS Housing Network, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, Syracuse United Neighbors, People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo and Community Voices Heard, and is part of the large week-long series of actions against big banks that have been organized around the country.
In total over 20,000 Americans will have marched on banks’ shareholders meetings, corporate headquarters and financial districts in San Francisco, Kansas City, Mo., Charlotte, N.C. and New York City. In May, thousands more will descend on Washington, D.C., to bring the Showdowns to the Senate. For more information on this mobilization and a recap of past Showdowns, please go to the following website: www.showdowninamerica.org.
Photos and videos of ALL “Showdown” events and activities are being captured and provided to the media through the following websites:
National People's Action (NPA) is a network of community power organizations from across the country that work to advance a national economic and racial justice agenda. NPA has over 200 organizers working to unite everyday people in cities, towns and rural communities throughout the United States. For 38 years, NPA has been a leader in the fight to hold banks accountable to the communities that they serve and profit.
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