That was Tuesday in cities around the country. The signatures came from petitions launched by the Campaign for a Fair Settlement, MoveOn, CREDO, the Courage Campaign, and Campaign for America’s Future. The cities were Charlotte, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Diego, and St. Louis where these groups joined with local partners to deliver those petitions to US Attorney’s offices. And the demand was spurred by Attorney General Eric Holder’s comment in a Senate hearing,
“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if we do prosecute — if we do bring a criminal charge — it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy,” said Holder, who cautioned he was speaking generally and not about the HSBC case specifically. “I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”
In other words too big to fail is also too big to jail. 333,000 people joined in to call for an end to that approach, demand prosecutions of Wall Street criminals, the break up of big banks and the resignation or firing of AG Holder. On Tuesday April 2, we delivered those signatures directly to the Department of Justice via the US Attorney’s offices in eight cities.
In some cases the response of the local office was both comical and starkly ironic. For example, in St. Louis, Missourians Organized for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) organizer Zach Chasnoff described, “a significant police presence. I would estimate about 30 St. Louis City cops, a handful of Federal Protection Services guys and another handful of private security folks.” In other words, 30 cops to handle a constitutionally-protected petition delivery while still not one banker sits in jail for destroying our economy. A vivid example of governmental priorities that helps make our underlying point.
MORE’s group was able to deliver directly to US Attorney Richard Callahan, who “assured us that he would pass it all along to the Attorney General and carbon copy us on it so that we knew it went out.”
30 officers from three separate agencies on hand to greet MORE members as they deliver 333,000 petition signatures demanding an end to “Too Big to Jail”.
In other cases local partners were able to make a significant impact on on-going fights against Wall Street and financial giants. In Minneapolis, for example, Occupy Homes Minnesota (OHMN) and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) were joined by US Representative Keith Ellison as they delivered petitions to the US Attorney there and rallied to save the home of Minneapolis resident Rose McGee who is fighting Fannie Mae. A federal judge ordered Fannie Mae to enter into mediation with Ms. McGee on May 14th. The Star Tribune covered the action with a comprehensive and well-contextualized story you can read here.
And OHMN gives a good report of the day on their blog here.
Action North Carolina met directly with Press Officer for the Attorney’s office. The action, which featured delivery of the signatures on the first 120 pages of what was estimated to be a 40 foot high stack of paper had it been completely printed out along with a flash drive of the entire things, was covered a statewide TV news channel. Best quote goes to Action NC organizer Luis Rodriguez,
“We want to see criminal charges. There’s been a lot of fraud, even in these civil cases, and we’re not seeing anyone going to jail over this.”
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and Home Defenders League members delivered the petitions to the office of Central CA District US Attorney André Birotte Jr, but only after building security required ACCE and HDL members to cover up their organizational t-shirts. And after septagenariun member Beverly Roberts was directed to three different floors before someone would actually accept the petitions. Your tax dollars at work.
ACTION United members converged on the DOJ office in Philadelphia where member Dawn Hawkins spoke on how the Philadelphia School District lost $63 million due to bad “swap” deals from banks, and how this is one of the factors affecting the closure of her son’s school. She also spoke how bad banks, like Wells Fargo, have been targeting black and Latino communities in Philadelphia with predatory home loans and yet no one in Wells Fargo has served any time for breaking the law.
Four members were then escorted to the DOJ office where they spoke to the head of the Philadelphia Office. The lawyer agreed with what the delegation said. He pointed to Wall Street and D.C. as the primary sources of wrongdoing. He also encouraged us to call upon D.C. to pass more laws so his office could further prosecute banks.
ACTION United and MoveOn members from Pittsburgh and Beaver County delivered the first 30 and the last 40 pages of the 12,990 page document (which would be 40 ft high fully printed out according to Luis Rodriguez above) to Tamara Collier, Executive Assistant to the Hon. David Hickton (US Attorney) at the DOJ building in downtown Pittsburgh. Action United member Mr. Norris gave a brief statement that highlighted the fact that the banks have plundered our wealth through fraud, and quoted statistics from Campaign for a Fair Settlement that dramatically show that communities of color have lost a great deal more than white communities. He concluded by demanding that the US Attorney “JAIL THE BANKERS!”
Ms. Collier committed to making sure Mr. Hickton received the petitions.
50 ACCE leaders, MoveOn members, and Occupy Sacramento activists delivered the 333,000 petition signatures to the Department of Justice in Sacramento, calling on DOJ to prosecute Wall Street Bankers. They rallied in front of the building, held a press conference which was covered by two local TV stations, and then entered the building to deliver the petitions. The US Attorney’s office didn’t want to accept the petitions but after lots of pressure finally agreed to come down and accept them.
Thank you to everyone who helped deliver the signatures, to the groups who helped organize it, and to the 333,000 of you who stood up and demanded action from the Department of Justice and the White House. This isn’t over.