Dozens of noisy purple-shirted SEIU protesters stormed a Bank of America branch near the U.S. Capitol on Monday, forcing the bank to close down as confused customers looked on and tellers retreated to an interior room.
Other groups from SEIU and National People's Action were set to stage protests at BofA's and JPMorgan Chase's lobby shops downtown as part of a daylong anti-K Street extravaganza.
A security guard told HuffPost the branch would be closed only temporarily.
From there, the group blocked an intersection in D.C.'s tiny Chinatown, then stopped by a Citibank branch. "Corporate greed has got to go!"
At 11:00 a.m., hundreds of protesters from SEIU and National People's Action merged at the offices of Democratic superlobbyist Tony Podesta, who boasts Bank of America among his massive client list. "We're fired up to take down Wall Street," they chanted.
UPDATE 3:45 P.M.
SEIU member Al Marshall traveled from Oakland, Calif., where he works as a construction inspector, to join the protest. He said he'd recently lost his home to foreclosure after Wells Fargo denied him a modification. He said he struggled to make payments after his wife lost her job and his hours were reduced.
"I explained to Wells Fargo what the hardship was, and they laughed at me," he said, tears streaming down his face. "If [the financial industry] can spend $1.4 million a day lobbying, there shouldn't be a homeless person anywhere in America."
In response, Wells Fargo touted its modification efforts, saying the bank has granted borrowers 505,059 mortgage modifications since the beginning of 2009. According to the latest report from the Treasury department, released Monday, Wells Fargo has modified 25 percent of eligible delinquent mortgages in its portfolio under the Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program -- a total of 36,094 permanent mods.
Podesta donates a lot of money to Democratic candidates and party committees -- $394,800 in the current election cycle alone -- while his firm has booked record revenue lobbying for clients opposed to various parts of the Democratic agenda. (Podesta and his firm did not immediately respond to interview requests.)
By targeting Dem lobbyists like Podesta and Steve Elmendorf, the SEIU and other groups are signaling that they've lost patience with people who appear to be playing both sides.
"Whether you're an in-house lobbyist or whether you're a hired lobbyist, you're part of this machine backed by millions of dollars dedicated to using a variety of tricks and maneuvers to gut and weaken whatever Congress is trying to change," said SEIU's Stephen Lerner. "We want the bank lobbyists to look people directly in the eye."
The SEIU estimated that it had 2,000 people on hand when it clogged a K Street intersection for 20 minutes at the height of the protest.
Here's some video of the scene outside Podesta Group HQ shot by SEIU:
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