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Photos: Iowans march to promote ‘Bank Transfer Day’
DES MOINES — More than 70 people answered the call of Occupy Iowa and an independent grassroots movement Saturday morning to march roughly two miles in protest of two national banks along Ingersoll Avenue.
Demonstrators gathered in Western Gateway Park in downtown Des Moines on Saturday morning and, with police escort, traveled Grand and Ingersoll avenues in order to visit Wells Fargo Bank, 2840 Ingersoll Ave., and Bank of America, 3422 Intersoll Ave.
At Wells Fargo, the group’s first stop, entrances to the bank were blocked by members of the Des Moines Police Department, but some demonstrators made their way inside. Among those entering the bank were Cat Rocketship and her husband, Scott Kubie, who closed their business account with Well Fargo — a key message of the social media-sparked “National Bank Transfer Day” initiative.
“It seems incongruous to have our money in a big bank while our business supports buying locally and the community,” Kubie explained.
“What are we paying these people for? I understand paying someone for innovation, but anyone can look at a spread sheet and say if we quit paying people, we’ll make more money.”
One demonstrator, Ross Grooders of Des Monies, took advantage of the proximity to law enforcement to spread the broad message of economic inequality held by members of Occupy Iowa, Occupy Des Moines and other similar demonstrators throughout the nation.
“The police are a part of the 99 percent and have a stake in the triumph over big banks,” Grooders said.
J.R. Bruce, a Wells Fargo customer who left during the demonstration, said he acknowledged the crowd’s intent and their right to freedom of speech. He added, “Obviously, it’s going to take more than what these people are doing to get anything done.”Officials with Wells Fargo had no comment, but an employee said they remained open to customers throughout the protest.
The response was different at Bank of America, where bank officials reported closing their branch for roughly 15 minutes while demonstrators gathered and chanted outside.
As the crowd demonstrated next to the drive-through window, Mario Funetes, a Bank of America customer yelled back through his car window, “Shame on you!”
“I wanted to go inside, but I have to go to another bank,” Funetes said.
Another Bank of America customer, Gloria Miller, waited outside the branch in her wheelchair alongside another woman Saturday morning while the the branch was closed.
“If I’d known they’d be here,” Miller said, referring to the demonstrators, “I wouldn’t have been here.”
Around 11:30 a.m. the crowd dispersed and officials re-opened the bank.
Des Moines Police said the protests were peaceful and resulted in no arrests.
Although Saturday was dubbed “National Bank Transfer Day,” credit unions in Iowa and throughout the country have received massive benefits in the weeks prior to the actual day of awareness and demonstration. The Iowa Credit Union League reports that its affiliates have gained $49 million in new deposits and 7,000 new members since the beginning of September. Nationally, credit unions have gain 650,000 customers and added $4.5 billion in new accounts during that same time, according to the Credit Union National Association.
Although the grassroots-inspired “Bank Transfer Day” is independent of the occupy movement, they have similar goals — namely to defuse corporate influence in public policy. Many customers of the big banks have also been discouraged and disenchanted by increased fees and other proposals by the financial institutions.
“I started this because I felt like many of you do,” said Kristen Christian, organizer of the switch day. “I was tired — tired of the fee increases, tired of not being able to access my money when I need to, tired of them using what little money I have to oppress my brothers and sisters.
“So, I stood up. I’ve been shocked at how many people have stood up alongside me. With each person who RSVPs to this event, my heart swells. Me closing my account all on my lonesome wouldn’t have made a difference to these fat cats. But each of you standing up with me … they can’t drown out the noise we’ll make.”