Several hundred people picketed in front of bank branches throughout downtown San Francisco on Thursday afternoon, chanting slogans and hoisting signs that placed the blame for the country’s ongoing economic trouble on Wall Street tycoons.
Shouting, "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out," the protesters moved from Charles Schwab to Chase to Citibank to Bank of America. According to police, six people were cited for trespassing after they entered a Chase branch on Market Street.
"We’re getting s--- on over and over because of the centralized banking system," said protester Thomas Edinger, a 24-year-old San Francisco resident. "They designed it to fail so they could take our tax dollars."
Edinger acknowledged that the protesters would probably be ignored by the banks, but he said he hoped passers-by would be inspired to take their money elsewhere.
"I want people to be aware of what’s going on," he said.
The protest was organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and labor unions, including local affiliates of the Service Employees International Union. Anonymous, the Internet hacking group that recently called for weekly protests against BART, also was represented.
Several of the protesters had lost their homes to what they described as predatory lenders.
"They basically stole my house," said Constance French, 65, a laid-off teacher from East Palo Alto. French said the sheriff had evicted her Tuesday, and since then she has been living in her car.
"Chase is trying to get my home for free," said Linda Reed, 65, of Oakland. "On the Monday before Thanksgiving, they’re going to sell my home of 38 years on the courthouse steps."
Through a megaphone, to cheers from the crowd, Reed addressed the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase.
"Jamie Dimon, come out from whatever rock you’re hiding under," Reed said. "You will not get my home from me."
According to the organizers’ website, www.makebankspaycalifornia.com, Thursday’s demonstration was part of a weeklong mobilization in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York. Other activities in the Bay Area included protests at foreclosure auctions and visits to banks to present a list of demands.