DENVER– Roughly 200 people gathered in front of the Wells Fargo “Cash Register” building downtown here Wednesday to protest “too big to fail” banks in general and Wells Fargo in particular– financial institutions that outrageously mismanaged depositor savings and fueled the global economic crisis last year. The banks received taxpayer bailout funds to the tune of $700 billion, which they used at first to stay afloat but ultimately to increase profits and even lobby lawmakers to vote against consumer protections. Protesters took turns withdrawing their Wells Fargo savings.
Some of those closing accounts said they were planning to put their savings into smaller local banks, which they said weren’t tied to the risky investment schemes that brought Wall Street on its knees to Washington.
But the event wasn’t just about banks or a protest of the financial industry. Sponsored by Change that Works, Coloradans for Financial Reform, and Health Care for America Now, the event was meant to fuel a larger movement demanding the country’s laws work first for citizens instead of major corporate and financial institutions.
“It is time for Congress to take action and stand with Coloradans, ” said Change That Works Colorado State Director Kjersten Forseth. “This system is not working for Main Street. While conditions for working families, small businesses and seniors are worsening, Wall Street, big banks, insurance companies and special interests are cleaning up.”
Serena Woods, Colorado communication director for Change that Works, told the Colorado Independent that it was time to stop supporting Wall Street and to bring about banking reform, reform she said would help stuggling citizens. It is time for Washington to start paying attention to the American people who have called for comprehensive health care reform, for example, she said.
Linking health care to Wall Street and the ecnomic collapse, Woods offered the example of Donovan O’Dell, a small business owner who spoke at the rally, who after years of rising health care insurance costs was forced to drop both his families insurance and the insurance that covered his seven employees.
“We don’t know what exactly the health insurance bill will look like but right now both the Senate and the House bill would provide options for these individuals to find relief,” Woods said. “The problems are too big to ignore.”
“Financial and health care corporations have put millions of dollars into killing federal financial industry reform and health care reform in order to protect their profits and at the expense of the people,” the sponsors of the rally said in a statment. “Colorado families have borne the brunt of their reckless behavior, from home foreclosures to health crisis bankruptcies. It’s time to choose Main Street over Wall Street.”
News outlets are reporting that Wells Fargo last year leveraged coming bailout funds to support its purchase of rival bank Wachovia.