If there's one way to unite the 99 percent, it’s direct actions aimed at the big banks. People are angry, and it's not hard to see why: Massive bailouts; exorbitant executive salaries; huge bonuses; dishonest and illegal lending practices; fee and rate hikes; all adding to American outrage. "Too Big to Fail" is a moniker that should be applied to the American people, not a financial institution whose collapse threatens the global economy.
One of the keys to the early momentum of the Occupy Movement was the outright anger people have for big banks. For example, the statistics surrounding November 5th Move Your Money Day are amazing. Credit Unions added over 650,000 new members with over $4.5 billion in deposits. There were hundreds of actions across the nation bringing people together to close accounts, and in many cases, close banks for the day. Individuals, small businesses, nonprofits, and more, all came together to fight back against the big banks, and their bottom line.
Direct action against the big banks is not new to the Occupy Movement. In the Bay Area, Occupy Oakland has shut down banks with massive marches roaming around the city shutting down every bank in sight. Occupy SF has marched on, and even occupied a Bank of America, tents and all! Marching on, and closing banks, happens all over the country. Occupy Wall Street has marched on Goldman Sachs on more than one occasion.
One action aimed at big banks happens weekly in San Jose, California. They call it Financial Friday. Members of Occupy San Jose, and the surrounding communities (recently, members of Occupy Oakland have joined in), rally together to shut down banks in downtown. Sometimes all it takes is one person to shut down a bank. The surrounding community “shows mad love," as one local protester shared on twitter, and why wouldn’t they? There's no love lost between the 99 percent, and massive financial institutions seemingly bent on the destruction of anyone in the path of their quarterly bottom line. People want to take action, and given the opportunity, they will.
Why not use Financial Fridays to unite this effort around the country? Sporadic actions held all over the country make much bigger waves when united together. A weekly national action can be used as outreach to educate people on the benefits of moving their money, and the terrible practices of their specific bank. But that’s not all, Financial Fridays can be organized around specific foreclosure defense actions. Occupy Oakland is currently helping homeowners in foreclosure with groups like ACCE, and Causa Justa (Just Cause). Just this week, Occupy Oakland shut down a local Union Bank in a community wide effort to save the home of 77 year old great grandmother Katie Mitchell. Mrs Katie, as she is known, has been trying to refinance for years while getting the financial runaround from JP Morgan Chase and Union Bank. The direct action forced the branch manager to meet with Mrs Katie and review her case. Helping families like Mrs Katie’s is one of the surest ways to unite communities and recapture momentum.
Banks try everything they can to avoid doing the right thing, and it’s time they truly learned the consequences of doing business in a socially irresponsible, reprehensible, and often illegal manner. Today, Financial Friday will go off like clockwork in San Jose, and the banks will be shut down. Hopefully, we can say this about National Financial Fridays very soon.
I will be reporting from this weeks Financial Friday Action in San Jose, you can watch Live here starting at 3PM.