The Rising Tide of Bank Protests

Despite Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, distrust for the banking industry in the United States remains palpable, and now we’re beginning to see a sustained, organized counterattack. Bank protests themselves are nothing new, but what is new is the alliance between PICO, National People’s Action, SEIU, Northwest Federation of Community Organizations (NWFCO), Southeast IAF, and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) that has coalesced around a joint Bank Accountability Campaign.

“The banks are making feeble or no attempts to keep people in their homes,” said Amy Schur, who directs ACCE, adding that banks are profitable again and on track to make $146 billion in bonuses this year. Protesting banks, she said, is not only the stuff of noisy activists anymore, but of average workers and homeowners. “More families who would normally not get involved in this type of activity are showing up.”

Just last September, more than 40 organizations were represented in Chicago for a Banking on the New Economy Summit, which was convened not by intermediary organizations or funders, but by the Bank Accountability Campaign. At a December 2010 protest held by ACCE in downtown Los Angeles, 22 people were arrested (including an 85-year-old woman) protesting foreclosures outside of a Chase branch. Protests like these are part of a long-term goal of increasing accountability, Schur said, as well as getting banks to quickly respond to community needs regarding foreclosures or modifications. Sometimes headlines go a long way.

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