About 50 gathered for a demonstration April 23 outside the west coast Wells Fargo headquarters on Montgomery and California- and 20 stayed the night- in a plan to “Occupy Wells Fargo” for the bank’s shareholder meeting April 24.
Several organizers from non-profits and community groups aired their complaints about Wells Fargo, including their role in the foreclosure crisis as well as investments in the private prison and coal industries.
Wells Fargo is a substantial investor in GEO Group, whose “operations include the management and/or ownership of 114 correctional, detention and residential treatment facilities encompassing approximately 80,000 beds,” according to its website.
Amanda Starbuck of Rainforest Action Network decried Wells Fargo’s investments in the coal industry, especially mountaintop removal mining- a mining technique in which the top of a mountain is blown up, to attain access to coal. Many environmentalists oppose the practice, which leaves mountains flattened and barren, while allowing for the flow of sediment and mining chemicals into rivers and streams.
“These projects would not be able to happen if banks like Wells Fargo didn’t invest in them,” said Starbuck to the group.
After the events ended around 10pm, protesters remained, serving food to passers-by and preparing for today’s events. One woman projected the word “shame” in glowing letters beneath Wells Fargo’s sign.
“So John Stumpf [CEO of Wells Fargo] said, that’s a moral hazard to give principal reduction to people who are getting foreclosed on, but it’s not a moral hazard for Fannie Mae to buy up all these crap mortgages from us, and put the taxpayers on the hook,” Jane Smith, a longtime Occupy San Francisco organizer, explained enthusiastically to a small group of other protesters sitting on the sidewalk taking notes.
Organizers say they expect at least 1,000 people to protest outside the company’s shareholder meeting.
20 remained over night outside the bank, about 16 lined up in sleeping bags. Police stood by throughout the night- there were no conflicts.
Protesters plan to meet at Justin Herman Plaza at 10am for a march to the shareholder meeting.