If you passed the shopping center at 51st Street and Broadway this afternoon, you might have wondered what the protest was all about. Retired teacher and OEA activist Jack Gerson tells us in the below account:
More than fifty Oakland teachers (members of the Oakland Education Association) and allies staged a spirited protest today calling for reversing priorities to bail out schools, not banks, and to end foreclosures. The demonstrators delivered their message at three Oakland bank branches — Wells Fargo, Chase, and Bank of America — all in the Rockridge Shopping Center. Their message was that the $4.7 trillion bailout of the big banks came at the expense of schools, essential public services, and the nine million families who have lost their homes to bank foreclosures. This message resonated with the many passing motorists who honked their horns in support, and to many bank customers and shoppers who voiced their agreement that something is very wrong when banks are “too big to fail” but schools, workers and families are apparently just the right size to sacrifice.
Today’s action began with a rally in front of the Chase branch at 4:30. At 5 PM the protesters marched to the Bank of America branch, where they picketed before moving on to Wells Fargo. At about 5:30 PM, OEA President Betty Olson-Jones led a delegation into the Wells Fargo branch and presented the branch manager with a letter to be delivered to Wells Fargo President John Stumpf. The letter called on Wells Fargo to organize a bank bailout of the Oakland school debt; to publicly endorse increased taxation of bank and corporate profits; to endorse a “split-roll” property tax to tax corporate property at higher rates than homes; and ending foreclosures by adjusting mortgages to reflect homes’ reduced market values. The delegation remained in the bank branch until the letter was faxed to Mr. Stumpf.
OEA and its allies were greatly encouraged by the community’s enthusiastic and sympathetic response, and believe it shows that there is real potential for a mass campaign to set priorities straight and to show that there’s not a lack of money — it’s just not going to the right places.