Occupy Winston-Salem to picket Bank of America branch on Sunday
Nathan Welling, a member of Occupy Winston-Salem (right), illustrates the African proverb that sticks in a bundle are unbreakable as Ashaya Hammond (far left) looks on during a press conference on Oct. 13. (photo by Keith T. Barber)
Occupy Winston-Salem, an independent, non-violent, leaderless movement, will conduct its first demonstration outside a local Bank of America branch on Sunday, Oct. 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Andrew Hobbs, a member of Occupy Winston-Salem, said he expects 150 to 200 picketers will begin gathering on the sidewalk in front of the branch at 426 South Stratford Road just before 11 a.m. on Sunday.
During an Oct. 13 press conference, Hobbs said the group is working closely with the Winston-Salem Police Department to ensure Sunday’s demonstration goes smoothly. Hobbs said Occupy Winston-Salem is autonomous of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City.
Marcus Hodges, a member of Occupy Winston-Salem, said the selection of Bank of America as a target for protest was based on a number of factors. Hodges pointed out that the Charlotte-based bank was the second largest recipient of federal bailout money during the 2008 financial crisis. According to a congressional report issued in March, Bank of America has received more than $336 billion from the US government in the past three years.
Despite taking billions in taxpayer dollars, Bank of America paid its executives more than $1 billion in bonuses in 2009, Hodges said. In addition, Bank of America recently laid off more than 30,000 employees and hurts small businesses with its exorbitant credit card swipe fees.
Nathan Welling, a member of Occupy Winston-Salem, read the group’s statement of purpose aloud during the press conference.
“Occupy Winston-Salem stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the globe as a non-violent, leaderless movement of Americans united to fight the corporate abuse of our democracy, and to take the reins of power away from profit-driven interests and assert our rightful place in the political process,” the statement reads. “We serve not only as a movement of protest, but as a means to liberate Americans from the shackles of corporate greed. Our members are employed and jobless, liberal and conservative, and comprised of all colors and faiths. We do not exclude anyone, as we are all suffering under the top-heavy power structure of the one percent.”
Welling said he has volunteered with AmeriCorps in India and Tanzania and witnessed the power of non-violent protest to bring about change.
“If they can use those techniques there, we can use them here,” Welling, a 2007 Wake Forest graduate, said.
Ashaya Hammond, a member of Occupy Winston-Salem, pointed out that the top 1 percent of American wage-earners controls 43 percent of the nation’s financial wealth and that the bottom 80 percent controls only 7 percent of the nation’s financial wealth. Except from a brief period in the 1980s, Hammond said we haven’t witnessed unemployment rates like this since the Great Depression. All the while, corporate profits are at record highs.
“We as the 99 percent need to say, ‘no,’” Hammond said. “We need to stand up and be heard.”
A general assembly meeting of Occupy Winston-Salem will follow the demonstration at a location to be determined, the group said. For further info, visit: http://occupywinstonsalem.org/