Showdown in Chicago
The People's demands: stop lobbying against financial reform, end extravagant executive bonuses and halt home foreclosures that are ruining neighborhoods across the nation.
Events kicked off with a gathering of hundreds of everyday Americans, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), for the People’s Commission to hear testimony and evidence of loss of homes, jobs and pensions, which the Commission plans to share with the Obama Administration, Members of Congress and the Angelides Commission.
Immediately after the People’s Commission a group of more than 900 people were organized to take their message directly to the ABA at a social being held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, also the conference location.
About 60 people penetrated the hotel lobby, requesting a demand letter be delivered to members of ABA and was read out loud for members to hear. No comments were made by ABA representatives.
“I know they heard us, whether they wanted to or not,” said Reverend Robert Bushey, member of Central Illinois Organizing Project. “We’re tired of what they have done. We want to hold them accountable for the current economic crisis. We want to find out if the lawmakers are on our side or on the side of profit.”
That evening, more than 900 people took their message directly to the ABA at a banker’s ball being held at the ABA convention. “American families already lost $11 trillion in wealth and every 13 seconds another home goes into foreclosure,” said Denise Dixon, Executive Director of Action Now. “All while the bank bosses live it up on big bonuses and lavish parties. The banks must be held accountable for the destruction they’ve caused in our communities.”
On Monday, FDIC Chair Sheila Bair addressed nearly 1,000 people and reaffirmed her support for much needed reforms like the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. She told the crowd she would deliver that message when she addressed the ABA convention later that morning. Following Bair’s remarks, taxpayers took their message directly to the banks at demonstrations outside of Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and the ABA convention.
After Bair's speech, Showdown participants went Goldman Sachs Chicago headquarters to try and deliver a demand letter.
“In this letter we demand that Goldman Sachs stop working against the American people and instead start supporting common sense financial reform. We also showed Blankfein how he can be a hero this holiday season by directing Goldman Sachs take some of its projected $23 billion bonuses this year and redirect it to foreclosure prevention programs that work to keep people in their homes,” said James Mumm, Director of Organizing, National People’s Action.
Immediately after Goldman Sachs, taxpayers marched to Wells Fargo to publicly scold the bank for its unfair lending practices.
“Wells Fargo is one of the top financiers of predatory pay day lending companies in America,” said 81-years old Ferol Wegner of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, who lost a third of her pension in the last year. “Their irresponsible lending practices have also led to tens of thousands of foreclosures and vacant buildings in our communities. Wells Fargo is also guilty of targeting African Americans and Latinos with predatory sub-prime loans in our communities.”
The Showdown protests continued back at the American Bankers Association conference, where the thousands continue to question why community bankers remain in an association that is lobbying against their interest. Taxpayers continued to demand that the ABA stop lobbying against common sense financial reforms put forth by President Obama.
“The big banks and their lobbyists have had their way in Washington for decades,” said George Goehl, Executive Director, National People’s Action. “Their drive to deregulate the financial markets has failed miserably. It is time for new ideas – and the incredibly diverse crowd of everyday Americans gather in Chicago to put forth a set of clear proposals.”
After taking $17.8 trillion in taxpayer bailouts and backstops, the ABA and the six largest banks are back to business as usual, ignoring their commitments to help taxpayers and helping themselves instead. The largest banks are making tens of billions of dollars in profits on the backs of the American taxpayers while spending $35 million in taxpayer funds to lobby for more taxpayer bailouts and fight against reforms that would protect taxpayers from bank abuses in the future. Meanwhile, ordinary Americans continue to face rising foreclosures, record unemployment, skyrocketing bank and credit card fees, and vanishing pensions and 401(k)s. Americans have lost six million jobs, homeowners have lost $6 trillion in home values and local governments have lost up to $58.0 billion in annual property taxes.
Photos and videos of the Showdown events and activities can be found on the ABAShowdown Flickr stream and Youtube page.
Groups participating in the three days of mobilizations include: A New Way Forward, AFL-CIO, Action Now, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, Alliance to Develop Power (ADP), Americans for Fairness in Lending, Americans for Financial Reform, ARISE Chicago, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Central Illinois Organizing Project (CIOP), Center for Community Change (CCC), Change in Terms, Change to Win, Citizen Action, Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, Communities United for Action (CUFA), Community Voices Heard (CVH), Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO), Grassroots Collaborative, Green Party of Nevada, Fuerza Laboral/Power of Workers, Illinois Hunger Coalition, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Jobs with Justice, Gender Just Metanoia Centers, Inc., Michigan People's Action (MPA), MoveOn, National People’s Action, Northside Action for Justice, Northside POWER, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, People Organized for West Side Renewal (POWER), PUSH Buffalo, Right to the City Alliance, Rights for All People (RAP), Roomdad Productions, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), SEIU Illinois State Council, SOUL, South Austin Coalition Community Council (SACCC), Sunflower Community Action, Syracuse United Neighbors (SUN), Teach Our Children (TOC), The Grassroots Collaborate, UE, UCLA Undergraduate Students Association, Workers United, and Working In Neighborhoods (WIN)