Last Monday, Charlotte, North Carolina's city manager declared Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting taking place this Wednesday an "extraordinary event."
The extraordinary event tag refers to a city ordinance enacted in January in anticipation of the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Charlotte in September. The extension of the ordinance to cover the Bank of America meeting on May 9 gives law enforcement officials far-reaching power to limit protest and search protesters' belongings. Possession of articles as mundane as a magic marker near the site of an extraordinary event can be grounds for arrest.
We ask, what is so extraordinary about people protesting a bank that has created so much havoc in the lives of so many? What seems extraordinary is Bank of America helping bring the economy to the brink of collapse. Extraordinary is receiving a $45 billion taxpayer-funded bailout and then lobbying to defeat reforms designed to prevent another crisis. Fraudulently foreclosing on families is behavior worthy of the label "extraordinary."
We believe protest at the Bank of America meeting this year is not just normal -- it's the only response that makes sense. We don't want to protest Bank of America's shareholder meeting, but we have to, to protect our country from more unchecked corporate greed and abuse.
We want Bank of America to write down mortgages and keep families in their homes. We want Bank of America to provide good-quality and affordable loan products. We want Bank of America to stop providing financial backing to dirty energy, private prisons and predatory payday lending. We want Bank of America to pay its fair share of taxes.
Tagging the Bank of America shareholder meeting as an extraordinary event is another example of big corporations using their incredible economic and political might to silence the voice of Americans. On April 24 this practice was in clear view at the Wells Fargo annual shareholders meeting in San Francisco. More than 100 Wells Fargo shareholders were locked out of the bank's annual meeting. Only a dozen or so shareholders not part of Wells Fargo's rubber stamp team were allowed into the meeting. When shareholders who are members of National People's Action attempted to speak on the issues of foreclosures and Wells Fargo's financial backing of private prisons that lobby against immigration reform, Wells CEO John Stumpf quickly cut them off, saying it had been a great year for his bank. The police carried the shareholders off, one by one, and arrested them. If this is how Wells Fargo treats their own shareholders, one can only imagine how they feel about the rest of us.
Now Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan will follow in the footsteps of his colleague Stumpf, using an extreme provision to limit the rights of the same people that helped bail out his bank. There is only one appropriate response from us: to head to Charlotte May 9 and make the protests there an extraordinary event in terms of size and spirit.
Fill a van or a bus and head to Charlotte. Book your tickets to Charlotte. And don't forget your Bank of America is Bad for America signs. But, make sure to leave your magic marker at home -- unless you are ready to go to jail.