In solidarity with demonstrators at Bank of America’s annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, a group of Charlottesville residents gathered outside the downtown BoA branch Wednesday morning.
As part of the National Day of Action to Hold Big Banks Accountable, members of the Blue Ridge Council for Conscious Action (BRCCA) and Virginia Organizing expressed their concern that large banks like BoA have been foreclosing on homeowners, not sharing their fair share of taxes, and lending money to large corporations rather than small businesses.
Protestors held signs saying “Bigger banks are not better banks,” and quoting Thomas Jefferson: “Banks and corporations will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless.”
Freeman Allan, a retired Charlottesville resident, said he recently moved his five accounts from BoA to a local bank.
“Why empower a dinosaur?” he said, when local banks are available. He admitted that large banks are more convenient, but said he is proud of his decision to make the switch and hopes that others will follow suit.
“At what point does convenience get trumped by morality?” he said.
Joyce Allan, a spokesperson for the BRCCA, said she and her family have been personally affected by this “economic predator.” She said her daughter’s house was taken away in 2009, after BoA promised to roll her construction loan into her house and refinance.
“They changed all their rules, they lost her paperwork repeatedly, and in the end they said they weren’t going to keep their agreements,” she said.
A year after her daughter’s home was taken, Allan said she and her husband lost 30% of the value of their own home.
“Nothing changed; they just reassessed it,” she said. “It really began to backfire into our other financial affairs based on our own assets.”
Allan said she hopes these protests will encourage BoA to get their money out of big corporations and “start offering mortgages to ordinary people. “
“Today’s event is part of a massive mobilization of Americans who are fed up with big banks like Bank of America and their horrendous corporate practices,” Allan said.
Becky Thomas was one of 10 Virginia Organizing to attend the protest in Charlotte, and made it into the shareholder meeting with about 60 others from states as far as Wyoming and Washington.
"People came because it was the only way to get Bank of America’s attention," she said after the protest.
Thomas said the CEO and Chairman of the Board were "incapable of giving a straight answer" to the questions regarding payday lending, and it was satisfying to get the message out.
Update: Protestor Erin Rose held the sign quoting Thomas Jefferson but later confirmed that it was not an accurate quote.