Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Downtown protesters decry Chase banking profits

Posted on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 12:45 PM

To the clang and the thunder of an impromptu brass band that seemed more at home at Mardis Gras than in downtown Spokane, protesters gathered in front of the Main Avenue Chase bank branch to protest what they say is the finance house's corporate malfeasance.

A flyer handed out by a gray-goateed man lays out the protesters' case against the bank: acceptance of state taxpayer money, record profits, and a CEO who makes $10,000 an hour. All this, the flyer says, while schools, public workers and Medicaid funding is put in jeopardy.

“I think Chase has a big part in the housing problems,” says Betty Ann Steitman, a 79-year-old Spokane resident who was standing on the sidelines because she felt uncomfortable joining in (her minister was in the group, she says). “I don't know if they will listen, but we have to try.”

Inside the bank, a tall security guard in a gray uniform stood at the door, watching the protest, while a meeting went on in a conference room facing the protesters, who numbered about 25.

Chase is the banking arm of J.P. Morgan Chase, which Forbes has called the world's largest public company.

“Schools getting cut, it's not fair, time for banks to pay their share!” the protesters chanted.

After about a half-hour, the protest morphed into a forum for a catch-all of progressive issues, as different speakers took up a megaphone to address the diminishing group.

“People are entitled to get health care,” Debra Conklin, a minister at Liberty Park United Methodist Church, told the crowd. “The government is best able to distribute health care.”

After handing the megaphone to another protester, Conklin stood just outside the perimeter of the group.

“I don't think this is going to make a change,” Conklin replied when asked if she expected the protest to produce results. “If enough people speak out often enough, change will happen.”

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