99% Spring Targets Wall Street South
Posted by raleighfist on May 16, 2012
By Dante Strobino
More than 1,000 people defied police threats and arrests to protest the Bank of America shareholders’ meeting here May 9. Their three main demands were to end home foreclosures, end the financing of dirty coal, and assert workers’ rights against banks’ control of politicians and the electoral system.
The action showed that a fighting movement is brewing across the United States. This movement is passionately fighting for people’s needs to be placed before the needs of private profits of the banks and corporations.
Protesters in Charlotte included domestic workers from Atlanta, migrant workers from New Orleans, state workers from across North Carolina, and public housing residents from New York City to Durham, N.C. Students, workers, the structurally unemployed, immigrants and many others joined. Three issue-based feeder marches joining the protesters symbolized the three main demands of the protest.
This action was part of the “99% Spring” protests against shareholder meetings of such major corporations and banks as General Electric, Wells Fargo, Walmart, RJ Reynolds Tobacco and others all across the country. The recently formed North Carolina Coalition Against Corporate Power coordinated the Charlotte protest.
Charlotte’s city government used the May 9 protest to trigger a new repressive ordinance that restricted people’s ability to assemble and speak freely. The ordinance was passed in response to Occupy Charlotte and in preparation for the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
Raul Jimenez Arce, member of Raleigh-Durham Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST), told Workers World, “I joined the protest against Bank of America because I am tired of big corporations deciding our future, buying politicians and creating their own agenda at the expense of the working class.”
Despite the new restrictions, protesters bravely marched into the streets without permits and occupied two different intersections for a few hours, shutting down traffic to stop business as usual. Since Bank of America and Wells Fargo own most uptown buildings, this was truly a bold step.
Demand end to foreclosures
By 9 a.m., the marchers had taken over the intersection at 5th and College streets in uptown Charlotte, directly in front of where the rich shareholders were meeting and where they had just passed a pay package of $7 million for CEO Bryan “Big Banks” Moynihan.
The occupiers assembled behind a 10-foot-tall ball and chain marked “debt.” This symbolized all the debt that state and city governments, students, homeowners and others are strapped to because of the Bank of America’s capitalist, predatory practices. Trapped also by long-term unemployment, many marchers will never be able to pay back their debt.
Bonita Johnson, a low-wage kitchen worker in a state mental health facility in Butner, N.C., and member of the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, Electrical Workers (UE) Local 150, told WW: “These big banks are making mega money and not paying any taxes. We, as state employees, are struggling, working two and three jobs and paying taxes even on the little that we do have. I knew I had to join this protest.”
Sylvia Sanchez was the first speaker at the rally. A member of a community group, Action NC, Sanchez is a Latina mother of a disabled child. Bank of America is about to foreclose on her Charlotte house.
Marchers demanded that Sanchez’s home be saved and that principal loan costs be written down on all “underwater” loans to help keep families in their homes. Some demanded the federal government put a moratorium on foreclosures altogether, so families can stay in their homes while payment terms are negotiated.
“Let Johnny in, let Johnny in!” chanted the marchers in support of Johnny Rosa, an African-American man whose home BOA was foreclosing on. Rosa was simply asking for a voice at the table to be heard by the bank’s top executives. Cops swarmed Rosa, threw him to the ground and quickly arrested him, but not without the crowd standing up for him.
Four other courageous protesters were also arrested throughout the course of the day, most in planned civil disobedience.
Many other movement leaders spoke, including members of All of Us NC, a lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer organization that led a grassroots fight against a state constitutional amendment that banned all civil unions and rights of domestic partners. This reactionary amendment passed during the May 8 primary ballot.
Protesters take the streets
Protesters then began marching up Trade Street and south on Tryon Street, completely blocking one direction of traffic as they marched toward the Bank of America stadium, where President Barack Obama will give his acceptance speech during the September Democratic National Convention. Environmental activists, who draped a huge banner over its facade days before the protest, now call this arena “Bank of Coal stadium.”
Yen Acala, member of Occupy Charlotte and leader in the Coalition to March on Wall Street South, underlined the significance of the May 9 event, saying it will help spark people’s enthusiasm to demonstrate an even bigger challenge to the big banks, corporations and both corporate parties during the DNC.
All regions of the country will have their own face, their own struggles. That such a struggle movement is now brewing in the U.S. South has epic potential, especially since this region is home to well over 60 percent of all foreign direct economic investment — the construction of industrial productive factories — and a vast unorganized, non-union, low-wage work force who offer a vast potential for organization.
The time is ripe for a mass, militant march on Wall Street South — Charlotte — that can truly unite all sectors of the working class from across the region. This will be the next giant step forward for full democratic rights and ownership over all the factories, the schools, the banks and all institutions that make society run. It can truly challenge the ownership and property rights of the 1% and begin to leverage power and democratic control of these institutions in the hands of the 99%.
Organizers call on people from all over the U.S. to join them in the streets of Charlotte from Sept. 2-6 during the Democratic National Convention. You won’t want to miss it!
For more information, visit wallstsouth.org.