This is an early report. Check back for updates.
Updated 2:25 pm
A broad coalition of activist groups will descend on Charlotte, North Carolina, today to protest Bank of America’s annual shareholders’ meeting. Occupy Wall Street, one of the groups involved in the planning, expects thousands of protesters for a day of nonviolent protest, marches, and theatrics.
I previously wrote about the extraordinary measures the City Manager of Charlotte, Curt Walton, has taken to ensure that one of the largest banks in the world won’t have its peace disturbed by a group of enthusiastic citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. Walton has unilaterally declared the shareholder meeting an “extraordinary event,” meaning the city plans to restrict free speech and expand the ability of police and security forces to target activists.
In New York, the Bank of America–related arrests started early yesterday when police took into custody several Occupy protesters outside the Manhattan offices of BoA after demonstrators briefly blocked midtown traffic with a banner that read, “Bank of America, Bad for America.”
“My house was foreclosed by Bank of America after I lost my job,” Guillermo Calle, 49, an electrical engineer from Hempstead, Long Island, told the New York Daily News.
“It’s not a joke to live without a job. My family depends on me. We don’t deserve to be put on the street. I’ve tried to modify my mortgage five times with Bank of America, but they’d rather put it in a short sale.”
Jaron Benjamin, 32, of Brooklyn, was one of the people arrested.
“I’ve had an account with Bank of America since 1998—since I was old enough to have an account,” said [Benjamin], who said he would be closing his checkings and savings accounts.
“The government is always saying it don’t have the money to pay for social programs we need, but there’s the money right there!” he said, pointing at the bank tower.
Updates will be coming in throughout the day about specific actions, but for now, it seems protesters in North Carolina have gotten off to an early start (Twitter users can follow the unfolding story by searching the #99power hashtag).
Stephen Lerner, a member of the executive board at the Service Employees International Union, sent the Huffington Post the following update:
“We have moved into streets. Shutting down key intersections. Cops mellow so far.” (photo by @jwjnational)
Tim Franzen from Occupy Atlanta sent in the following photos from this morning’s march:
New Bottom Line, a national fair economy coalition, has been posting photos and crowd estimates of the protest all morning.
“Police estimate of #makeBoApay rally is 2000-3000,” NBL tweeted, before posting this photo of protesters chained to a giant “debt ball”:
The scene of thousands of protesters carrying signs, a giant debt ball, and BoA puppet, greeted shareholders who were forced to stand in long security lines.
“Security is so tight that stockholders are forced to wait in line outside. They cant help but see & hear the power of the people,” tweeted Occupy DC activist Sara Shaw. (photo outside BoA shareholder meeting by NBL)
Activist Michael Premo sent in the following photo to the Huffington Post from the environmental march converging at 5th and College outside the shareholder entrance.
Activists with ForecloseWallStreet are running livestream of today’s protests:
Update: NBL tweets several arrests have been made when protesters attempted to break past the barricades and get inside the meeting.
“Shareholder breaks through barricade; is promptly arrested as thousands chant ‘let Johnny in!,’ ” NBL tweeted, adding moments later, “Two more arrests are being reported at the barricades.”
NBL posted this photo of a protester named Johnny being arrested:
Jobs with Justice puts the arrest count at four individuals.
Update 10:50 AM: Reports of contentious interactions inside the shareholder meeting. One shareholder reportedly commented, “I’m of the judgment that Bank of America is a felon,” adding, “I don’t believe that Bank of America would be here today without the 99% of taxpayers that bailed out Bank of America. The $45 billion that you received pales behind the hundreds of billions that were guaranteed in bonds, commercial paper, and the list goes on and on.”
BoA CEO Brian Moynihan has thus far attempted to defuse the situation, but the critiques keep on coming. Earlier, Andrea Luquetta of the California Reinvestment Coalition spoke in favore of a resolution requiring Bank of America to conduct a review of its foreclosure practices and publish the results for shareholders.
“We’ve found that federal programs and rules have not stopped illegal foreclosure sales,” she said. “Housing counselors have consistently rated Bank of America as the worst servicer…even in violation of HAMP rules.”
“We obey the law every day,” Moynihan responded, adding that the bank is “cleaning up” problems.
Update 12:57 pm: While it’s clear there were many “activists,” in the words of the Observer business reporter Andrew Dunn, inside the BoA shareholder meeting, most of the proposals made by shareholders were ultimately defeated.
In a tweet that essentially summarizes the corporate-political landscape of the United States, Dunn wrote, “All management proposals pass, all shareholder proposals fail,” adding that the most support thrown behind a shareholder proposal (30 percent) was for more lobbying disclosure.
In addition to having their wishes ignored, some shareholders were turned away from the meeting entirely. Campaign for America’s Future spokeswoman Liz Rose sent the following anecdote to Huffpost:
I just got a call from the Bank of America’s shareholder meeting in Charlotte from Richard Eskow, a writer for the Campaign for America’s Future. Richard represents 82,000 shares of investor stock of BoA and yet he was turned away with 40 other shareholders just now and he and the others were asked to leave BoA property. Some shareholders who were turned away were elderly.
Update 2:25 pm: MoveOn tweeted some footage of the #99power march on BoA