From Occupy Redwood City:
One question is repeatedly asked of the Occupy movement:
This Saturday morning at 10 AM, Occupy Redwood City will explain to anyone who is willing to listen us what the 99% wants. We will take any members of the public who wish to join us on a walk from bank to bank in downtown Redwood City, an educational "Tour of Shame" where we will vocalize the crimes and the sins of the Big Four banks: Bank of America, Chase Bank, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.
We will explain exactly what we want from these Banks, and we will urge the public to move their money out of these corporations and into the hands of credit unions and independent community banks until these vital demands are met.
The sins of the Big Four are almost too many to list, but here is just a sample: Bank of America, the nation's largest bank and fifth largest corporation, pays less in taxes than the average American household. The average salary for a B of A teller is $22,556/year, while the salary and bonuses pocketed by CEO Brian Moynihan last year added up to ten million dollars.
Last year, the New York State Attorney General had to intervene to prevent Citibank from changing the terms on free checking accounts with zero days notice. Banks like Citibank helped Enron hide its troubles from creditors using shady accounting.
Meanwhile, Chase paid $27 million this year to settle a class-action lawsuit that accused it of overcharging members of the military for their mortgages. Wells Fargo, a West Coast institution headquartered in San Francisco, received over $43 billion in bailout funds, with their CEO John Stumpf being paid over $17 million last year while Wells Fargo tellers make less than eleven dollars an hour. The federal government's own figures shows that two years into the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP - www.makinghomeaffordable.gov), less than a quarter of Wells Fargo's 350,000 homeowners eligible for the program had received a permanent modification.
These are just a sampling of the banks' sins. But what is it that we of Occupy Redwood City want in return? What does the 99% deserve from these rich mega-corporations? Here’s just a sample of WHAT WE WANT:
KEEP FAMILIES IN THEIR HOMES: The Big Four must establish a moratorium on all foreclosures until comprehensive reforms to loan modification practices are established, including principal reductions and affordable, fixed-rates, and providing proof of ownership of loans. They must cease illegal evictions of tenants in foreclosed properties and work with real estate managers that follow tenant protection laws.
STOP PREDATORY LENDING: Big banks must stop financing predatory payday lending firms and stop providing payday loans to their own customers.
REBUILD OUR NEIGHBORHOODS: It costs cities and counties about $34,000 for each foreclosed home, and they become a source of blight. Banks must maintain and pay fines on their blighted properties, thereby sharing in the cost to our communities, starting with cities and counties throughout California with foreclosure, blight, and building registration ordinances.
PAY UP, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE: The Big Four must stop exploiting tax loopholes and start paying their fair share of local, state and federal taxes.
RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS: Big banks must stop investing in the GEOGroup, CCA, and other corporations that manage immigrant detention centers, profit from the incarceration of poor people and the separation of families, and lobby for stricter criminal sentences and cruel immigration policies.
On December 17, Occupy Redwood City hopes people will join them on this Tour of Shame to voice these demands.
We did not choose the date lightly: December 17 marks the first anniversary of the day Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, sparking widespread revolts in his country, the eventual downfall of Tunisia's corrupt government, and the Arab Spring. When the protests currently building worldwide over income inequality, government corruption, and corporate globalization are seen in the context of Tunisia and the Arab Spring, one can argue that Bouazizi lit the spark of the Occupy movement itself.
December 17 is also the birthday of Bradley Manning, the army private and whistleblower who is thought to have leaked classified material to Wikileaks. Manning, whose status as a gay man has been used as by the media to disparage his act of whistleblowing, has been imprisoned without charge and up until recently was imprisoned under conditions that amounted to psychological torture. Before Bouazizi set himself alight, he had read documents on Wikileaks detailing the rampant corruption in his government. Manning's trial begins this weekend.
In the wake of the bipartisan passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which authorizes indefinite military detention without protecting US citizens’ right to trial, it becomes ever more clear that change must come not from government, but from the ground up, from people like Bouazizi and Manning.
Occupy Redwood City wants to honor the spirit of December 17 in a small way by hosting this Tour of Shame. We want to show that even on the Peninsula, Americans are upset with the direction of our country and the way corporations like the Big Four are steering us down that destructive path. We want to present our demands and let the public know that we do know what we want. The passage of the NDAA on “Bill of Rights Day” is not only a sad irony but a clear indicator that business as usual is not good enough. It is time for direct action, even here in Redwood City. It is time for citizens to take back their country from corporations and the 1% who do not represent our interests.
Occupy Redwood City , 5 PM at Courthouse Square. For more information, go to OccupyRedwoodCity.Org.