Students Organize Protest at Bank of America Tower

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(APN) ATLANTA – It was a cold, rainy, and dreary day, on Wednesday, January 26, 2011, as approximately 25 activists gathered in front of the Bank of American (BOA) headquarters building at 600 Peachtree Street. 

They held signs stating, “BOA is a Criminal Organization”  and “Smash Capitalism.”  

The young, cutting-edge, mostly-male, gathering of students are part of an organization called Atlanta Defends Dissent (ADD), which promotes democracy and the freedom of expression by citizens without persecution by the state. 
 
Students from Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, and Georgia College and State University located in Milledgeville were present.  Also present were local anarchists, communists, peace activists, 1960’s radicals Steve Wise, Jim Skillman, and Stephanie Coffin, one of the co-founders of the former Great Speckled Bird newspaper. 
 
“I’m here to support the students from Georgia State University,” Coffin said.
 
“Foreclosures are through the roof in Atlanta. In this blood-red state it is no surprise that tenants have very few rights in the way of not having their livelihood stripped from them and their families.  We are sick of this endemic greed,” according to protest materials posted on Infoshop News.
 
“Additionally, Bank of America has been an anti-social institution for its entire existence – culminating in the four billion dollar bonus package for its higher-ups that was paid for as a part of a 25 billion dollar bailout package in 2008.  This regular looting of society in the form of interest and foreclosure has gone on for far too long.”
 
APN first reported on ADD when the group participated in a December 15, 2010, rally in front of CNN to defend dissent and support Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks.
 
Matt, who did not want to use his last name, told APN that, “ADD is protesting Bank of America because of out of control foreclosures and a criminal history of looting society.  They are a terrible corporation and have played a decisive role in the neoliberal exploitation of the entire planet, including, but certainly not limited to, their role in the 1973 coup in Chile.  We are also protesting in conjunction with a promised WikiLeaks release involving the bank.”

One of the December 15 protesters who spoke with APN and had read Wikileaks cables aloud, also had not wanted his last name used.

When asked why some were wearing scarves around their faces, Matt gave these reasons: “The police are known to film and photograph radical protesters – even to the point of creating entire dossiers on certain active individuals.  This type of action has really taken off since 9/11, especially involving the environmental movement.  The facelessness of the mask is a gesture of solidarity with voiceless revolutionaries worldwide.”

“Many apologists claim that capitalism’s problems are either aleatory [dependent on chance and luck] or necessary evils.  I think many in ADD believe the problems that have re-surfaced in the last decade, including our foreign wars, the market crash and the resulting recession, are systemic flaws that lie at the core of capitalism,” C.A. Seidl, an ADD member, said.

In 2009, Julian Assange told Computer World that secret documents he obtained from the hard drive of a megabank executive were related to Bank of America.  
 
Reports suggest Bank of America is very worried about the upcoming release of WikiLeak documents.  They are going into damage control and buying up hundreds of derogatory internet domain names like BankofAmericaSucks.com. 

According to an informational flyer by ADD:

-BOA has multiple lawsuits from private investors, as well as, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, demanding the bank buy back billions worth of toxic mortgages-backed securities.  The firm stopped issuing subprime mortgages in 2001, but it kept underwriting subprime mortgage-backed securities for many years.

-A BOA employee deposed in February 2010 said that she signed as many as 8,000 foreclosure documents a month without reviewing them, in violation of the law.

-In 2008, BOA acquired Countrywide, one of the most aggressive and fraudulent lenders during the housing bubble.  The result has been a trainwreck of liability and lawsuits for the megabank that now has over 1.3 million customers in foreclosure.  There is no end in sight for these suits.

-In January 2009, BOA acquired the brokerage firm Merrill Lynch for 50 billion dollars.  The US government blessed the merger with a 20 billion dollar bailout loan to aid BOA.  After the acquisition went through, it was revealed Merrill Lynch had lost 15.8 billion in the last quarter of 2008 and that 3.6 billion in bonuses were paid ahead of schedule to top executives at Merrill.  About the deal New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said: “One disturbing question that must be answered is whether Merrill Lynch and Bank of America timed the bonuses in such a way as to force taxpayers to pay for them through the deal funding.”

-In addition to the 25 billion dollars in TARP bailout money and the 20 billion for purchasing Merrill, BOA also received an estimated 931 billion dollars from the Federal Reserve in short-term loans and government subsidies.  The Federal Reserve was forced to release this data about its emergency loan programs in December 2010.

-If the biggest bank in the US is only being kept alive by accounting tricks and ongoing government subsidies, the result could be another government bailout or potentially the orderly dissolution of a firm that is “too big to fail” and still poses a threat to our nation’s economy.

Another participant at the BOA protest was G. Fabre.  Mr. Fabre has been in the mortgage and real estate industry for nearly 17 years and currently has a case in US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia with BOA.

According to the federal court database, PACER, the case is Gaellen Fabre v. Bank of America, concerns the Fair Debt Collection Act, and is still pending.  It was originally filed in the Superior Court of Fayette County Georgia.

Fabre told APN that about two years ago he found out some very disturbing news about how bank loans are done.

“First of all I was current with my mortgage payments.  I mailed on three separate occasions what we call a nice offer and demand, which is my right since they claim I owe them money.  Basically what that is, is a 26 page letter to the ‘lender’ telling them that I will pay the balance in full (102,000 dollars) if they can prove that they gave a legal loan, gave me full disclosures, and answer a few simple questions like, did I fund my own loan?” Fabre said.
 
“Later in August 2009 I filed a petition (Motion to Compel) with the county courts and my first hearing was in October of 2009.  The superior court judge ordered Bank of America to give me the documents I requested within 10 days.  They did not give me a thing and about 15-20 days later as we were preparing a contempt order, BOA removed my case to federal court.  24 months later they still haven’t given me anything but a counterclaim.  If I were to violate a judge’s order like Bank of America did I will be in jail,” he said.
 
“My case is still in federal court northern district and still I fight.  The bank has told lie after lie in their filings.  This case could have all been done if they were to just answer a few simple questions or just say that I am right.  I try to stay informed about BOA and the banking industry so when I heard about today’s protest I showed my support, despite the cold and rain.”

ADD will probably be back at BOA with the much anticipated January 2011 release of BOA documents from Wikileaks.  In 2010, Assange told Forbes magazine the information was significant enough to “take down a bank or two.”  

(END / 2011)

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