At “1% vs. Democracy” March, Hundreds Rally for Economic Justice and Against Banks and Corporate Policies

U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and corporations challenged on foreclosures, lobbying, taxes

Minneapolis – More than 500 Minnesotans marched through the streets of downtown Minneapolis on Friday, May 11 to protest against economic inequality, banking policies and corporate political influence.

Photo courtesy of Rafael Morataya.

Participants in the “The 1% vs. Democracy March” included community, faith, labor, musician Toki Wright, and Occupy activists. They rallied in front of U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo calling on the major banks to do more to prevent foreclosures and end lobbying and political activities that undermine school funding, restrict democracy and hurt immigrants and other communities.

“The continued inequities we’ve witnessed at the hands of the big banks call us to stand up today, and rebuild our devastated communities,” said Pastor Jim Erlandson of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

Outside Wells Fargo the marchers met up with Somali, Latino and other community members in the process of closing their accounts at Wells Fargo. Immigrant community activists, SEIU Local 26 closed their bank accounts and announced commitments by more than 1,000 other community members to do so to protest Wells Fargo’s support for anti-immigrant politicians and major banks’ refusal to work with Somali Money Services Businesses. (The Harrison Neighborhood Association also announced that it was closing its Wells Fargo account and State Representative Karen Clark told the crowd that she had done so that morning.)

“Our schools, and the children we are charged with educating, suffer great hardship because of the practices and policies of the banksters. They avoid paying their fair share of taxes. They support policies that shortchanged our schools to the point that they are owed over two billion dollars,” said Ann Angela Farris of Hopkins, custodian in the Lakeville Schools.

The marchers rallied in the street next the US Bancorp headquarters on Nicollet Mall and then at the banks front doors.  Homeowners John Vinje and Alejandra Cruz who have been fighting foreclosure with help of the Occupy Homes movement, spoke outside US Bank along with parents who say that tax-dodging and lobbying by the big banks has hurt the schools and health care.

“Our family has worked hard since we got to this country. We’re proud to be one of the families who have stepped up for those facing unfair evictions and foreclosure. We’re not going to stop until we see real change happening,” said Cruz said.

The march was organized by Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, Occupy organizers, and a host of community and labor organizations including TakeAction Minnesota.  Members of the coalition associated with Minnesotans for a Fair Economy said they have met with officials from both Wells Fargo and US Bank and attended shareholders meetings to ask the banks to change policies that harm Minnesota’s schools, homeowners and communities.

“Our communities, in good faith, entered into extensive dialog with officials for US Bank. We trusted in the process and for a time thought that they would make some significant changes like implementing a foreclosure mediation program and moving to resolve the humanitarian crisis for the Somali community. We are deeply disappointed that US Bank and Mr. Davis have not moved forward with us to do what is right,” said Doran Schrantz, Executive Director of ISAIAH, a faith-based organization of 100 congregations.

“Today’s action reflects the continuing evolution of the Occupy movement as we build powerful coalitions with labor, faith and community organizations to demand justice for immigrants, workers, and homeowners facing foreclosure while using bold and creative direct action targeting the banks whose irresponsible actions have hurt all of our communities,” Said Nick Espinosa, an organizer with Occupy Minneapolis and Occupy Homes.

Robert Hemphill of St. Paul, an activist with TakeAction Minnesota said he was motivated to march because of banker’s interference in democracy. “Those behind Minnesota’s photo ID amendment are those in the 1% which would benefit from driving down turnout from 99% voters.  These include organizations like Minnesota Forward and the Minnesota Business Partnership bankrolled by executives of Minnesota’s biggest banks were instrumental in the election of ALEC legislators who placed this voting rights attack at the top of the legislative agenda,” Hemphill said.

Organizers of the march, which culminated a “99% Spring Week of Action” distributed a coalition-endorsed platform calling on bank CEOs and other corporate leaders to meet with the community and take a series of practical steps to “fix what you broke, and create a new stimulus with equitable investments.”

The presidents of three local chapters of SEIU (Service Employees International Union)—Julie Schnell (Healthcare Minnesota), Carol Neiters (284) and Javier Morillo (26)—participated in the march and were among the 15 people who sat in the intersection outside U.S. Bank while the community rallied.

The following organizations endorsed the 1% vs. Democracy March: CTUL, ISAIAH, IUE-CWA Local 1140, Jewish Community Action (JCA), Minnesota AFL-CIO, Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc), Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, MoveOn.org/Minnesota, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), Occupy Homes MN, Occupy the Hood, Our Future MN, SEIU, SEIU AFRAM Minnesota Chapter, Socialist Alternative, Somali Action Alliance, TakeAction Minnesota, Twin Cities Industrial Workers of the World UFCW 1189, Veterans for Peace, Chapter 27, and the Welfare Rights Committee.

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