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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

99Rise Bank Of America Protest Launches New Movement

Michael Juliani |
September 29, 2012 | 10:50 a.m. PDT

Assistant News Editor

The two student sitters who were arrested.  (Michael Juliani / Neon Tommy)
The two student sitters who were arrested. (Michael Juliani / Neon Tommy)

Occupy Wall Street offshoot organization 99Rise staged a protest Friday afternoon at the Bank of America and Wells Fargo on Hope Street in downtown L.A.

Eight protestors were arrested.

Six were arrested  after remaining in the bank while giving a petition to the bank manager that asked for the release of information about the funds the bank provided to presidential campaigns.

Two were arrested for sitting down beyond police barricades, refusing to leave.

The rally mustered at Pershing Square, a short walk away.

Arriving late at Pershing Square, I followed the sight and sound of the police helicopter up Olive, where I heard from the businesspeople walking the street, "There are some people doing something at Bank of America."

About 50 to 75 protestors showed up at the bank.

About 20 of them were Occidental College students or alumni.  

The banks and police prepared in advance for the protest, having barricades set up in front of the steps leading up to the building.

They know that this week marks the one-year anniversary of Occupy L.A.

Sept. 28 was deemed a day for action in the movement, as protests sprouted in New York and other cities across the country, some of them versions of 99Rise.

Security guards prevented anyone without a "legitimate" reason or some sort of pass to get through the barricades in front of Bank of America.

Across the street, Wells Fargo security guards stood on the sidewalk with earpieces, and LAPD on motorcycles stood waiting under the overhang of a parking garage.

The number of cops slightly outweighed the number of protestors.

Some of the cops were talking and joking with the 99Risers at the rails of the barricade.

"Protestors keep getting younger and younger," one officer said, looking at the group standing along the railing.  

Kai Newkirk, a founder of 99Rise, spoke to the group, making announcements, leading "mic check" chants and communicating with the police, through an Officer Sherman.

Newkirk has a background in labor organizing, was dressed nice in a pressed white collared shirt and was polite with Sherman. 

Once the protest ended, Sherman said, "I'll work with these guys any day."

Newkirk and a few others founded 99Rise as an offshoot of Occupy L.A. and Occupy Colleges, a group of student organizers from Occidental College.

The two protestors arrested outside the bank were Occidental students, one wearing a black and orange school shirt.

While sitting, they had dollar bills taped over their mouths and were waving small American flags.  

The whole group sang "Just like a tree planted by the water, we shall not be moved."

The police waited 20 minutes or so to see if they would get up, then took them through the bank with a swath of cheers from the crowd.

One of the arrested students' friends, a 19-year-old Occidental student named Jordan Greenslade, asked to be arrested afterwards because he'd agreed to stand by his friends.

"I didn't want to let them down," he said.

"There's a young man here who also wants to get arrested," Newkirk told Sherman.

Sherman told him there would be no point, joking, "Is he a good kid?  Tell him I'll personally arrest him first in line next time."

According to Maddie Resch, a 19-year-old Oxy student who was arrested while working as a peacekeeper at Occupy L.A. the night of the LAPD raid, 99Rise focuses on issues of corporate money, pushing for the disclosure of anonymous political donations. 

They focus, Resch said, on what they believe to be the best parts of the Occupy movement, using the effective label of the "99 percent" in their own platform.  

But they're "definitely separate" from the Occupy movement. 

"We're also incorporating good structure.  Everything we do is intentional, planned out," Resch said.

99Rise trains its participants for three days in how to be effective parts of the movement.

On its Facebook page, it asked that those who wanted to get arrested at Friday's action go through a training session beforehand.

Also, 99Rise focuses on nonviolent protest, learning, Resch said, from successful protests in world history.

While speaking to the group, Newkirk mentioned the Greensboro sit-ins, which catalyzed the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

Looking around the 99Rise congregation, it's easy to see that it carries none of the homeless, psychiatric or down-and-out aggressiveness you might've seen at Solidarity Park last year.

Most of its participants are white, under 30 (and even under 20) and have a college-level education.

Schaefer with his sign.  (Michael Juliani / Neon Tommy)
Schaefer with his sign. (Michael Juliani / Neon Tommy)

Alex Schaefer, one of the older participants at 42, walked around the plaza with a huge sign that altered the names of banks to say "Bad for America" and "We're Felons" for Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

"I like fucking with their signs," he said.  

He said he wanted people to have the same type of reaction to the Bank of America logo as they do to the swastika.

The eight people arrested will apparently be in jail until Monday.

Officer Sherman worked with a female protestor to let her know where they'd be taken.  Likely downtown, he said.

In the debrief session after the protest, the 99Risers asked for donations for bail.

Then Newkirk asked how many different college campuses were represented.  

I counted at least six, with only one apiece from UCLA and USC (me). 

Afterwards, there were hugs, and Newkirk said, "Let's eat."

"Where can a vegetarian get food around here?" a guy with a guitar asked.

Newkirk said that they were headed over to Casey's Irish Pub for an after-protest drink.

"We're going to sit until they kick us out," he joked. 

The five or six 19-year-old Occidental students I was talking to grimaced because they wouldn't be able to go.

"I know some people here are a little too young for that, so for that, you'll just have to forgive us," Newkirk said.


Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of the 99 percent here.

See Michael Juliani's live tweets from the protest here.

Reach Assistant News Editor Michael Juliani here.  



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