When the news comes to the office — bank protests in Minnesota

As I sat in the office working on a New Normal story, I heard chanting outside. Though I couldn’t make out the words or see the crowd, I knew that several groups had been organizing around foreclosure issues and Wells Fargo, so I grabbed the FlipCam and went on outside to cover what was — sure enough — a crowd chanting, “They got bailed out, we got sold out!”

Wednesday’s demonstrations were organized by Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, and SEIU’s purple shirts were much in evidence. Kevin Whelan of Minnesotans for a Fair Economy said that this week various organizations had organized “a whole lot of events around banks and foreclosures.” (Take Action Minnesota had marchers downtownon Tuesday.) Whelan wasn’t present at the demonstration I saw, but another spokesperson talked to the camera (video, above.)

The marchers outside the Wells Fargo bank at 2600 E. Franklin in Minneapolis numbered about 40. (That’s where the TC Daily Planet office is, across from the ATM machine in the back lobby.) One of the marchers told me this was the fourth bank they had visited, and that they had occupied one bank briefly, before the police moved them on.

On Tuesday evening, October 11, over in St. Paul, ISAIAH, a coalition of more than 100 churches, called a meeting at St. James AME Church “to combat the housing crisis through a platform of policy initiatives around foreclosure mediation, raising vacant home fees, strong zoning policies, and holding banks accountable.”  The next day, ISAIAH announced that 400 people attended, including six St. Paul City Council members.

The coalition for Tuesday night’s public meeting — which included Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, Frogtown Neighborhood Alliance, Housing Preservation Project, Jewish Community Action, St. Paul Black Ministerial Alliance — heard about an ISAIAH report called the St. Paul Housing Study. That study finds Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank at fault for their home loan practices:

In July 2011, the Federal Reserve Board assessed an $85-million civil penalty against Wells Fargo, the largest fine the Federal Reserve has ever imposed in a consumer case. The Federal Reserve charged that between 2004- 2008 Wells Fargo Financial steered customers into more expensive sub-prime loans even though they qualified for better rates. As part of its settlement with the Federal Reserve, Wells Fargo will have to repay up to $200 million to customers that it overcharged.

Previously, the Illinois Attorney General sued Wells Fargo for steering African-American and Latino homeowners to higher cost subprime mortgages while giving white borrowers who had similar incomes lower cost loans. The suit charged that “Wells Fargo drained wealth from families and neighborhoods and added to the stockpile of boarded-up homes . . .”

The study charges that Wells Fargo Bank made more prime loans to upper-income and white neighborhoods, but that, “Wells Fargo has served low- to-moderate income and minority neighborhoods disproportionately through its finance company, Wells Fargo Financial, which makes higher rate subprime loans.”

The St. Paul Housing Study focuses on St. Paul, tracing the disproportionate impact of the foreclosure crisis on poor and minority neighborhoods, and recommends foreclosure mediation and loan modification, as well as other steps.

The New Normal theory says that we will never get back to “the good old days” before the 2008 recession, that unemployment and insecurity will continue at a higher level, that incomes will decrease, and that we should all just get used to it and adjust our lives, government and social order accordingly. The protesters at Wells Fargo weren’t buying it. Like those downtown at the Hennepin County Government Center, and at all of the Occupy sites throughout the nation, they are pushing back.

 

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.

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