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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BofA protest: A view from the street

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2009 at 1:08 PM

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“Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ken Lewis has got to go,” was the chorus chanted by a few dozen protesters outside of the Bank of America shareholders meeting in Uptown Charlotte.

Groups like Rainforest Action Network, Service Employee’s International Union and even a man of God, were represented.

Every protester had their own reasons for being there and not every one wanted to get rid of Lewis.

Kathryn Hilton, a college student from Aiken, S.C., said she wants the Charlotte-based bank to stop funding coal-fired plants.

“Bank of America is involved in financing not only coal mining companies but energy corporations that are bringing in more dirty energy. That’s not the future for our country or the world. I’m here to say it’s not OK that you use my money to finance dirty energy,” she said.

Stephen Lerner of the Service Employee International Union and the Rev. Les Schmidt of St. Gabriel Catholic Church attempted to take a pink slip into Lewis. The poster sized pink slip read: “The results are in: 1 Million Taxpayers say Ken Lewis . . . You’re Fired.” But officials with the bank told the men that they needed to leave, according to Lerner.

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“It’s clear that the only way our voices will be heard is if we organize taxpayers and organize customers and organize people all over the country to say ‘enough is enough.’ Fire Ken Lewis. Let’s fix banks and rebuild the middle class in this country,” he told the cheering crowd, which had gathered in front of the Bank of America corporate center.

Police guarded the doors and nearly every corner around Trade and Tryon streets. The protest in the early part of the afternoon was noisy but peaceful. No hanging banners from cranes and no arrests as of 12 p.m.

Anastasia Christman of SEIU said if things don’t change with Bank of America and Lewis isn’t ousted, when the bank seeks more bailout money, taxpayers have to hold them responsible.

“We feel like the policies that Bank of America uphold are part of what made this crisis.  The economic crisis came from irresponsible practices from people like Ken Lewis and Bank of America. More specifically we feel like the way that they take taxpayer money and lobby against reforms that will help customers and help workers is unacceptable,” Christman said.

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She added that Lewis is trying to protect his job and do what is in his best interest by buying votes to keep him in power. “They need better and more responsible leadership to reformer the economic system.”

Christman said Lewis’s track record proves that he should be ousted from the bank.

“Tens of thousands of people are being laid off and he’s deciding to have big bonuses go to executives. Tens of thousands of people are getting laid off and they’re continuing to buy up other companies.”

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