When JP Morgan Chase held its annual shareholder’s meeting on May 17th, I imagine they had much to worry about. The building for this event was Chase Bank’s headquarters in Columbus Ohio- the second largest office building in the world next to the Pentagon. From the northeast all the way to the south western side of the building, a wide moat protects this financial center from the outside. Five roads lead to high-security checkpoints that screens all vehicles before entering.
The ingenious architecture of this building should effectively keep “unwanted” people out, but this proved no challenge for National People’s Action, a grass-roots organization with chapters around the country. From places as divergent as New York and Iowa, buses filled with those America most forgot after the 2008 financial crisis- the masses of once-happy home owners betrayed by JP Morgan Chase’s faulty loan practices. Community leaders joined as well.
This descent upon Columbus was dubbed the “Showdown in Ohio”, demonstrating our commitment to put the people’s fight against wealthy corporate leaders into the forefront of American debates. JP Morgan Chase bears responsibility for millions of homes foreclosed on with little effort to help the families that occupy them retain ownership. Our government convinced Americans to give over $100 billion in taxes to JP Morgan Chase alone in bail-out money, yet JP Morgan Chase simply will not use these funds to help out home and small business-owners. To push the knife further into America’s back, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimond collected $20 million in bonuses on top of his already high salary.
For two days, our group of 1000 protesters made sure Dimond and the rest of Chase Bank’s executive board understood they could now longer hide in fancy hotels and heavily guarded buildings. The first day in Ohio consisted of two actions. They were exuberant displays of solidarity from a group with decades of experience. Our first “hit” was against a local Chase Bank, situated close to the headquarters. The police built a crude barricade between us and the bank, displaying their penchant towards protecting wealthy institutions rather than the people they prey upon. The second was outside the hotel two Chase executives were staying at. These were relatively short actions compared to the massive demonstration the next day.
May 17th’s shareholder meeting was the action we had been waiting for. NPA designated two simultaneous plans of attack. The first placed hundreds of protesters at each of the five guarded entrances. The second group penetrated the the shareholder meeting, giving them a platform to ask Jamie Dimond directly about Chase Bank’s dirty practices. The protesters outside chanted loud while they locked arms effectively holding their ground in the face of threats by angry police officers.
While these two groups were keeping everyone very busy, a third group (the one I took part in) played an unusual and up until the last minute, a secret role in getting protesters across the building’s protective moat and onto Chase Bank’s property. Those of us from Bloomington-Normal dressed up as viking warriors and joined forces with a group of “merry-men” from New York dressed as Robin Hood. Our group’s resident artist engineered a draw-bridge that myself and six other indivduals dragged through three and a half feet of muddy water. Once succesfully dropped on the other side, more than a dozen of our members made it across, only to be immediately confronted by a group of cops and a viscous police-dog. They forced our people to the ground. The video taken of this entire escapade is enough to convince this writer to hop on a NPA bus next time to participate in the next “Showdown”, wherever it may be.
I’ll have to plan to take days off from work for the next “Showdown”! The way I see it, this issue of the banks – their massive bailout and then profit-making on our backs – is at the very center of the current economic crisis. IPA puts a spotlight on how the needs of people are quite contrary to the needs of the big banks.
Great work, great article!