Foreclosure Fighters Occupy Wells Fargo Shareholders Meeting

Written by Eric Louie. Posted in Economy, Housing, Immigration, Labor, News

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Published on April 25, 2012 with 5 Comments

As many as 500 demonstrators convened in downtown San Francisco Tuesday to protest a Wells Fargo shareholders meeting held in the Merchants Exchange building to draw attention to the bank's foreclosure policies and its impacts on homeowners who face eviction and homelessness. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Eric Louie

April 25, 2012

As many as 500 demonstrators took aim at Wells Fargo over its corporate policies Tuesday, blocking entrances to the Merchants Exchange building in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District in an attempt to disrupt the bank’s annual meeting of shareholders.

The demonstration aimed to expose and shame the corporation and its investors into acting responsibly over a foreclosure crisis caused in large part by predatory lending practices employed by Wells Fargo and other banks, actions that has led to 1 in five mortgages nationwide exceeding appraised home values as well as publicly-funded bank bailouts.

In possession of bank shares or proxy votes, demonstrators managed to gain access to the meeting in an attempt to shut it down. Though they were soon ejected by police, the demonstrators considered the attention-drawing operation a success.

“I think they realize there’s other voices to be heard,” said Barbara Casey, 62, of Portland, Oregon, who managed to gain access to the meeting.

Occupy SF, labor unions, Bay Area advocacy groups and non-profit organizations combined to noisily but peacefully protest Wells Fargo on a number of issues. Demonstrators want the bank to halt foreclosures pending investigations and reform; do more to help homeowners facing foreclosure and eviction; divest its interest in private prisons and immigrant detention centers; pay its fair share of federal taxes; and end its predatory lending practices.

“A coalition of organizations (that included SEIU Local 1021) came together as the 99% takeover of Wells Fargo,” wrote former Supervisor Chris Daly via email, who now works as a political director for SEIU, and who managed to gain access with others inside the building to block entrances. “About 200 of us were actually stockholders (I bought 1 share,) but only about 20 were allowed into the actual shareholder meeting.”

“We were there to call attention to a number of terrible Wells Fargo policies,” Daly continued. “While the 99% struggles to make it in an economy that was wrecked in part by the subprime loan scheme of banks like Wells Fargo, Wells Fargo is America’s biggest tax-dodger. Wells Fargo put taxpayers on the hook for $43 billion in bailout funds, made record profits, and paid negative federal income taxes over the last three years. Wells Fargo leads foreclosure rates on homes, decimating communities. Wells Fargo engages in discriminatory and predatory lending, targeting the most vulnerable communities with payday schemes.”

Former District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly.

The protest began Monday evening with speakers airing their issues on the street. Into the night there was food and final touches being put on signs and banners. Some protester camped out.

Tuesday began with a march from Justin Herman Plaza with demonstrators forming a perimeter around California, Montgomery, Pine and Sansome streets.

Demonstrators convened at Justin Herman Plaza, otherwise known as "Bradley Manning Plaza," before marching to the Merchants Exchange building.

One enlarged banner read, "99% Takeover. Topple the 1%"

“I’m kind of tired, but I’m not tired of fighting for justice,” Mario Howell, of Antioch, told the crowd from a flatbed truck equipped with a sound system. A clergy leader with Contra Costa County Interfaith Supporting Community Organization who was arrested during a similar protest last year, Howell said he was denied access to the meeting by security. “They must have had my picture,” he said.

Demonstrators were able to block entrances by forming human chains, sitting down and linking arms. Those demonstrators that managed to get inside the building, also formed human chains and refused to leave. In preparation for the protest, police, some clad in riot gear, formed police lines with the aid of metal barricades.

Demonstrators formed human chains to block access to the meeting.

Occupy SF demonstrators managed to block an entrance to the building on Montgomery Street.

“The shareholders meeting is closed,” one organizer announced through his megaphone. “There’s nothing going on but the 99 percent takeover.”

Police and demonstrators turned away several shareholders trying to pass, though both allowed some shareholders in. While there was scant confrontations with police, some shareholders cursed and forced their way passed the blockades.

“Who the fuck are you guys,” one shareholder said, walking away in disgust.

“Please respect our peaceful blockade,” demonstrators chanted back.

Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak said the protest was peaceful. He said 14 people were arrested for disrupting the meeting, while another six blocking entrances from inside the building were arrested for trespassing. He said the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department also arrested four demonstrators for interfering with an officer.

“We think it went well,” Andraychak said, adding that police and organizers had discussed the protest objectives prior to the demostration. “They stuck to their started objectives.”

Bank spokesman Ruben Pulido said the bank was able to complete the meeting.

“Wells Fargo respects the rights of Americans to peacefully assemble,” Pulido said. “Our focus will be on protecting the safety of our customers, team members and shareholders.”

One demonstrator who identified herself as “Casey,” said she and about 30 demonstrators managed to gain access to the meeting. They had to go through multiple screenings and counted about 400 attendees, mainly non-demonstrators. She said police were everywhere.

“They were ready for whatever,” she said. “There was a policeman for every person in that room.”

Casey said soon after the meeting’s 1 pm start, demonstrators in a choreographed manner, individually brought up the issues they were raising before being quickly escorted out. She was initially arrested, but police then allowed her to leave without charges if she agreed to leave voluntarily.

Like Casey, Larry Ginter, 72, of Rhodes, Iowa, said police treated the protesters respectfully. He came with a group called Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, many of whom were among the arrested including himself.

“They’re just doing their jobs,” said Gintner, “And we’re just doing ours.”

Eric Louie is covering the Occupy movements for The Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America Local 39521.

Luke Thomas contributed to this report.

More Photos

"Stop corporate greed."

"Seize the banks. End the dictatorship of the 1%"

Members of the clergy with proxy votes and bank shares were refused access to the meeting.

Some protesters brought flowers which they said were "a parting gift for Wells Fargo."

Occupy SF protesters fabricated a Wells Fargo stagecoach carrying a cardboard cutout of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumph.

"Hells Fargo."

"John Stumph, the 99% say enough!"

"Wells Fargo: Stop the Evictions"

Wells Fargo shareholders, declining to comment on their investments, stood confused by the commotion.

The San Francisco Sheriff's department came prepared for a riot.

"Damn Wells Fargo debt slavery."

A Wells Fargo investor was turned away.

A giant rat smoking a cigar was inflated outside Wells Fargo headquarters.

Eric Louie

Eric Louie

Eric Louie is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in Greenbiz.com, Contra Costa Times, The Record ( (Stockton), Philippine News, Pacific News Service and the Sunset Beacon.

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  • Daniele

    good. i wanted to see that rat. ; )
    (i’ll read it later).

  • Henry!  My good friend Henry Norr, journalist and member of the KPFA Local Station Board is part of the human chain blocking the entrance.  Henry never says die.  The Chronicle fired him for joining a demonstration against the Iraq War on his lunch hour in 2003.  I had the honor of getting tear gassed with Henry on the tear-gas-and-flash-bang-grenade night that put Oakland up there with NYC on the Occupy map.  Henry said that after being tear gassed in the streets in Greece, he finally made it to Gaza earlier last year, a big high point in his life. 
     Great pics’ Luke, as always.

  • And let’s get down to it: San Francisco Municipal Bank. 

  • Trust Fund Mantra

     A coalition of organizations (that included SEIU Local 1021) came
    together as the 99% takeover of Wells Fargo,” wrote former Supervisor
    Chris Daly via email, who now works as a political director for SEIU,
    and who managed to gain access with others inside the building to block
    entrances. “About 200 of us were actually stockholders (I bought 1
    share,) but only about 20 were allowed into the actual shareholder
    meeting.”

    Hey Chis, how many shares in trust fund your Dad setup for you??

  • payday loans online

    Banks really don’t want to hear people’s opnion and that’s why people should go to the demonstration to express their discontent.Foreclosure crisis increases and it’s clear that homeowners facing foreclosure need help and support,but it seems that banks just don’t care.I think in such difficult processes as foreclosures and mortgages there should be conditions that will allow people to get help.I even afraid to imagine how many people can be thrown out on the street and loose the last chance to change something about their mortgages.I do not understand why people still use services of banks called “too big too fail”,Wells Fargo and Bank of America aren’t the best in a policies and services that they provide.