We are interrupting our regularly scheduled election coverage to bring you an important update. Last week, Bank of America announced they would be charging fees for customers to use debit cards. This came less than a month after an announcement of over 30,000 layoffs. ABC News reported it “the largest U.S. layoff this year, according to global outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas.”
An unfortunate week to choose to announce this, possibly.
The Take Back Boston movement has gained momentum recently, culminating in a parallel protest with Occupy Wall Street last weekend. They got underway by cleaning up a derelict property that Bank of America had foreclosed upon and consequently owned. The activists removed the trash to the front of the home of Robert Gallery, president of Bank of America, Massachusetts; at the same time, they served a nine day “Notice to Quit” informing the bank that the harmful practices must end or further action would be taken.
The coaltion states on its website that big banks are destroying communities, swiping many clean of funds and jobs. “The banks took billions of our tax dollars, yet we’re the ones being forced out of our homes,” the Occupy Wall Street website states. “The banks’ greed is costing our neighborhoods millions every year—cutting services and closing schools and community centers. And it’s only getting worse. Big Businesses are killing our jobs and our environment. While the CEOs rake in millions in salary and bonuses, major corporations are laying off thousands of workers each month. All the while, these companies raise our rates, pump toxic chemicals into our water and air, and endanger our families’ lives. Enough is enough. It’s time to take back our city!”
Occupy Wall Street made news this weekend with the arrest of 700 people on the Brooklyn Bridge. Online Time mentioned one of its demonstrators, Christine Velez, holding a sign geared toward Republican presidential contenders: “I Won’t Believe a Corporation Is a Person Until Texas Hangs One.” The movement had 300 protestors involved, all of whom had been living in a park for 21 days, “protesting income inequality and corporate greed, with Wall Street as the central villain,” according to Time.
The protest has grown from initial urgings by AdBusters, a nonprofit that seeks to raise awareness about the perils of mindless consumption and Anonymous a “hacktivist” non-organization that provided the initial communication infrastructure to launch the Occupy Wall Street movement. Since its inception, especially with the surge following the mass arrests, the movement has swelled and is spilling into cities around the country.
It is at the core of the founding principles of this country to speak truth to power, and for the people to have a voice. Yes, we must vote—and hopefully vote critically—but the First Amendment protects our rights to freedom of assembly and speech for times just such as these. The AP reports over 700 people were arrested in the Occupy Wall Street protest. Many reporters and pundits are quick to say, “What has changed? To what good end?” I would personally say the fact that national attention has finally been drawn to the issue of corporate welfare and that the attention has been directed by the people—not by a candidate running for office.
“The protestors have found the target,” Steve Fox, a Wilmington area real estate agent drastically affected by the mortgage meltdown and downturn in the economy, says. “We stood with our toes over the abyss in 2008, and we narrowly averted that disaster. Now it’s business as usual. What course of events is required to put us on a path to real reform? It’s going to be a popular movement or a popular uprising or it’s going to be disaster.”
It reminds me of the Poor People’s Campaign, complete with encampments set up for long haul protests. Only the message of this movement is that the middle class is now sinking into poverty. Not asking for help from above, rather calling attention to abusive practices by our financial institutions.
It would be impossible for the Live Local column not to take notice of the protests occurring around the country. This is a large-scale recognition of what I have been trying to formulate over the last two years: We have big problems and make decisions everyday about how to respond to those problems. Putting our heads in the sand and continuing with business as usual is not going to solve them. Continuing to trust that off-shoring industry and sending our money to faceless corporate giants is going to fix things is just not going to work. How can buying local help? It circulates money here instead of immediately lining the pockets of the too-big-to-fail. It’s important that we spend cash with our neighbors, and get returns that far outshine the momentary joy from a purchase that has not saved a job here but rather sent one overseas.
Every fiber of my being cries out to go to New York at this moment—but the reality is that with my current financial situation, the only way I could is by using a credit card. In other words, to borrow money from the exact institutions the protest is trying to call attention to; thus, it’s an unreasonable level of hypocrisy. From my vantage point, the things I can do are: pay cash, buy local, keep my money here instead of sending it over the Internet to these people. And if I had an account at Bank of America, closing it would be at the top of the list—right next to not using a debit card.