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How OWS Plans to Take Down Bank of America
Posted on Apr 12, 2012
By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet
Break It Up
Back in January, Public Citizen put forth a petition calling for Bank of America to be broken up by regulators, who have the authority to do so under Section 121 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. A group of economists and activist groups signed on to a separate letter to the Treasury Secretary, the Fed and the FDIC, calling for investigation into the country’s biggest banks to see if more of them were deserving of dissolution.
And now, Occupy Wall Street has set its sights on B of A.
“Our specific demand is to break up Bank of America because we’re done with this too big to fail thing. Bank of America is too big, it has been failing and we want to highlight exactly how it’s failing,” Nelini Stamp told AlterNet.
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Of Move your Money, Stamp said, “We want to make sure that people feel like that is a direct action unto itself. It’s not just ‘I’m just moving my money from here,’ but actually people are feeling empowered and knowledgeable about the choices that they’re making when they’re making their banking decisions.”
On April 13 in New York, Occupy will be holding a “move your money relay,” escorting people from Bank of America branches, where they’ll close their accounts, to community banks and local credit unions, where they’ll hold celebrations to welcome people to their money’s new home. And May 9th is Bank of America’s annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina (the same city where just a few months later, Democrats will converge to re-nominate Barack Obama for a second presidential term – at Bank of America stadium). Other activist groups like the Rainforest Action Network and the New Bottom Line are joining Occupiers in calling for actions in Charlotte to protest the bank’s policies.
“As the top financier of America’s dirty, outdated coal industry, which pollutes American communities every day, Bank of America has become emblematic of everything the 99% struggles to change,” Amanda Starbuck of Rainforest Action Network said.
It can be easy to get lost in the mess of evils that Bank of America is responsible for, but the OWS crew wants to make sure that focus stays on the bank’s responsibility, both itself and through its Countrywide mortgage subsidiary, for thousands upon thousands of foreclosures. (The bank controls 17 percent of all of America’s home mortgages, according to Taibbi.)
In New York, Organizing for Occupation has been doing blockades at foreclosure auctions, Stamp said, disrupting the process of selling off homes. The week of April 16, there will be more auctions in the city, and Occupy activists plan to target homes specifically being foreclosed upon by Bank of America and Countrywide, calling attention to the fact that foreclosures are more than numbers on a balance sheet—that each one represents a person, a family, being put out on the street. “We want to highlight that banks steal homes,” Stamp said.
If you can’t make it to a foreclosure blockade and you’ve already moved your money away from Bank of America (or never banked there in the first place), the Occupy crew is inviting other activists to take a page from their book and move into a local Bank of America branch—and then share your experience online. In what they call “living-rooming,” a crew from Occupy’s Direct Action group brought furniture into a local Bank of America branch and settled in to hang out, telling the bank employees that they were renting the place out—for the $230 billion in bailouts the bank had gotten from them and people like them. “It’s your home too!” they announced.
While moving into a Bank of America lobby isn’t a permanent solution for thousands of people left homeless by predatory banking, it is a fun way to remind the banks—and the general public—that Bank of America is, in fact, our bank—that it’s us who’ve paid for it, and that if it tanks again, we’re going to be the ones on the hook for bailing it out. To prevent that from happening, Occupy and an ever-growing number of organizations and experts are calling, ever louder, to break up the big bank before it breaks the economy—again.
Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabble-rouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.
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