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    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Occupy Bozeman Notes Success in First Action of Wells Fargo Divestment Campaign


    Thursday, March 1, 2012
    Jim Macdonald
    Yesterday, in solidarity with a national day of action called against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Occupy Bozeman held the sidewalk in front of Wells Fargo in its first action of a divestment campaign against the bank. More than two dozen people joined also by a couple media outlets took part in a festive hour of protest, featuring a giant sign tied to the bank edifice which read "Foreclosed."

    Perhaps more importantly, the group heard reports of customers taking their money out of Wells Fargo, in large part inspired by the campaign. Billy McWilliams shared this a day prior to the event over an Occupy Bozeman email list: "I was just at Wells Fargo (I'm a 22-year customer), and they were cranky. They mentioned it [the protest]. 'We just found out that we're going to be occupied.' The teller said that she thought that Occupied was misfocused. I told her that that can cut both ways. I'm going to divest. While I have great sympathy to the folks who work at that branch, Wells Fargo has broken the social contract. Thanks for your fine work!" There were reports of at least one other person divesting as the protest was ongoing.

    Thus, Wells Fargo stayed open throughout the action, giving opportunity for people to remove their money.

    Wells Fargo was targeted for the February 29 - "Shut Down the Corporations" - day of action against ALEC occurring in over 70 cities.  ALEC is a group of many of the largest corporations who work together to draft model legislation to serve the interests of the richest people in the country.  Because Wells Fargo owns a $120 million stake in two private prison corporations who are members of ALEC, one of whom was directly responsible for the anti-immigrant law in Arizona - SB 1070 - and since that coincided with the new divestment campaign against Wells Fargo, Occupy Bozeman chose to combine purposes.

    Wells Fargo, the nation's fourth largest bank and largest mortgage provider, has been the target of a divestment campaign by Occupy Bozeman because of the bank's role in economic injustice in our society. They were and are a huge player in the housing crisis, they continue to hurt consumers through exorbitant fees, engage in all sorts of other nefarious practices over which people have little control, and they are not nearly as good an alternative as many local institutions, particularly credit unions.

    The action on the street was festive. A group of people could be seen much of the action crafting signs. A donated sound system allowed people to speak. Others had the opportunity to have voice in mainstream media interviews being conducted by KBZK (CBS) and NBC Montana. Most public response during the lunchtime action was positive, though one man predictably yelled out the old standby, "Get a job!"

    Occupy Bozeman will return to Wells Fargo at Noon on Wednesday, March 14. The action, still being planned, may involve a march between U.S. Bank - where Montana State University has its accounts - and Wells Fargo. Some sort of street theater is also being planned. Stay tuned, and get involved - see http://occupybozeman.org.







     
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