Occupy Long Beach Marches Ahead Of “Bank Transfer Day”
Cole said she had a dollar in her account before Chase’s monthly service fee kicked in and she ended up with a negative account balance.
The Long Beach City College fashion merchandising major said the greed of the major banking companies led her to close her bank account and help organize Occupy Long Beach’s “Bank Transfer Day” march through downtown Long Beach on Saturday.
Organizers said the march was meant to raise awareness of the Nov. 5 date when participants are encouraged to close their bank accounts and transfer funds to a credit union. Although the Bank Transfer Day movement — spearheaded by Kristen Christian, a Los Angeles gallery owner — stated on its Facebook page that it has no ties to the Occupy events, Occupy Long Beach organizers said they support the cause in order to voice dissent against banks charging fees to customers who do not meet a minimum account balance requirement.
“[The banks] definitely have the money and got bailed out, but for some reason, we’re getting charged and reaping the consequences,” Cole said.
More than 70 demonstrators gathered at Lincoln Park early in the morning before marching north on Pacific Avenue and turning east along 7th Street. Some marchers passed out leaflets to passers-by and encouraged them to join the demonstration.
Protesters chanted in unison, “You are the 99 percent,” as several cars driving by honked horns in support of their cause.
The march ran south on Long Beach Boulevard and paused in front of a Wells Fargo tower on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Ocean Boulevard before returning to Lincoln Park.
As the protesters passed by the bank tower, one group of demonstrators chanted, “Tell me what hypocrisy looks like?” while the other retorted with “This is what hypocrisy looks like,” pointing at the nearest bank building.
Kristyna Blazkova, a disabled Long Beach woman who receives $850 monthly in Supplemental Security Income, said she opted to open a credit union account because “they truly care about the people.”
“Credit unions are not greedy,” she said. “I had an account with Bank of America and they were atrocious.”
More than 59,000 people have pledged to participate in the Nov. 5 event on the Bank Transfer Day’s Facebook page. Cole said she hopes the movement can attract enough support to urge banks to rethink the decision to charge monthly fees.
“I’m not sure if [the banks] even care, but I hope they realize that it’s bad for business,” Cole said. “The customer is what makes your business, and I think a lot of the big businesses forgot about their customers.”
No tents to occupy
Anyone walking by Lincoln Park won’t find a tent city resembling the one outside Los Angeles’ City Hall building.
Long Beach city law forbids people from camping out on public property between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. the next morning. According to the Long Beach Post, the term “camp” means the use of tents or other temporary shelters.
Unlike in Los Angeles, where city officials have allowed occupiers to pitch tents outside City Hall despite laws against overnight stays at city parks, the Long Beach City Council has not been as open in voicing support for the movement.
Cole said participation in Occupy Long Beach, which began on Oct. 15, has struggled to gain momentum because of camping restrictions.
“Nobody’s really staying,” Cole said. “It’s going to affect the occupation deeply if we can’t occupy. If we only have 10 people protesting, then all 10 of us go to jail, so we need some more people out here.”
Cole said organizers have enlisted a legal team to help negotiate a deal with City Council that would extend the hours protesters are allowed to assemble in Lincoln Park, and eventually, grant them permission to camp out in the park overnight.
In the meantime, many protesters choosing to stay overnight are allowed to huddle up in sleeping bags until the park closes at 10 p.m., which is when they must follow police orders to relocate to the sidewalk area along Pacific Avenue.
Blazkova said she wants Long Beach officials to throw their support behind demonstrators instead of the “one percent” by granting them the same camping access allowed to occupiers in L.A.
“I want [the City Council] to listen to people’s voices and vote based on those voices,” she said.
Reach reporter Danny Lee here.
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