Bank of America protesters congregate on Boston Common

by Christina Jedra / Beacon Staff • October 4, 2011

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Thousands gathered on Boston Common Friday to protest Bank of America’s 30,000 job-cuts, their failure to pay taxes, and its new $5 monthly charge for debit purchases. Two dozen people were arrested without resistance for trespassing, according to a href=http://articles.boston.com/2011-10-01/business/30233388_1_show-of-civil-disobedience-thousand-protesters-arrestsThe Boston Globe/a.

It started with a calm gathering in the Boston Common early Friday afternoon. By 4 p.m., two helicopters were hovering over the thousands of people surrounding the Bank of America at 100 State Street in Downtown Crossing. Protestors yelled in anger phrases such as, “Bailout the people, not the banks!” and “Corporate greed has got to go!” while signs of all shapes and sizes were waved fervently by the excited members of the cheering crowd.

One protestor, who identified herself as C.P., said she has seen the affects of Bank of America’s policies firsthand as a Bronx-based member of Mothers on the Move, a non-profit grassroots organization.

“The ‘banksters’ have unscrupulous regulation and are taking away the American Dream. Every American has the right to live in a home,” she said. “I know several people who have lost their homes because of Bank of America. This is modern day highway robbery.”

Early last month, Bank of America announced “Project New BAC” as a way to lower expenses and consequently, cut jobs. According to The Huffington Post, the plan is put in place to save the company $5 billion by 2014.

Customers’ discontent spiked recently when the bank announced a $5 monthly charge for debit card purchases. While card holders may still withdraw cash from an ATM without paying the fee, many find the new charge inconvenient, another sign that banks are taking advantage of their customers.

One protester, a self-proclaimed “wage slave” said he is tired of spending his hard-earned money on fees.

“I sell my labor at an hourly wage for the fat cats,” said Chris G. of Providence, who did not wish to give his last name. “I’m sick of all their fees. They don’t pay taxes, they’re foreclosing on our homes, and they’re banking at our expense.”

Antoinette Gomes, a retiree from New York who was ready to protest since 4 a.m. that morning, said that Bank of America’s new monthly fee is another indication of the company’s greed. “It’s not in favor of the people. It’s in favor of their CEO,” she said.

According to The Boston Herald, T.J. Crawford, a spokesperson for the bank downplayed the legitimacy of the protester’s grievances, arguing that the Bank of America has actually made some improvements.

“These individuals choose to ignore the facts and instead focus on increasingly aggressive PR stunts,” Crawford said. “Bank of America has a lot to be proud of in Massachusetts, from modifying 18,000 mortgages since 2008, to lending nearly $400 million to small businesses that are fueling the local economy in the first half of 2011.”

One Emerson student didn’t seem to mind the new monthly debit fee at all.

“Obviously that’s annoying but [Bank of America] is the most convenient,” said freshman, Brannon Smithwick. “It’s worth it. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

However, Smithwick’s view seems to be that of a minority. Since Occupy Boston, a solidarity protest with Occupy Wall Street, is still occurring, there is an anti-establishment synergy throughout the country. And as long as there are people who feel undermined by the government and the banks, it seems these protests will continue.