This morning, up to a thousand protesters converged on San Francisco’s Justin Herman plaza and marched through the City’s Financial District to the Merchant’s Exchange Building, where the Wells Fargo Group was holding its annual shareholders meeting. The protesters called themselves The 99 Percent Takeover.
Protestors demanded a total moratorium on foreclosures, saying Wells Fargo’s lending practices were immoral, and accusing the bank’s leadership of being insensitive to the needs of ordinary people.
Barbara Stebbens, a former client of Wells Fargo who lives in Berkeley, was holding a sign asking the bank to stop predatory lending. “I have moved my money out of this predatory institution,” Stebbens said. “I’m very happy to be here to support the movement to bring to the attention of the shareholders just how bad their lending practices are.”
The demonstrators included members of the Bay Area Occupy movement, representatives of the United Service Workers union, and several local religious leaders. Reverend Gloria del Castilio is a Wells Fargo customer currently going through foreclosure. “After working hard and saving money for years and being loyal customer of Wells Frago bank, I'm about to lose my home,” Castillo said. “I have asked them three times for loan modification to save my home and they have refused it.”
About a dozen Wells Fargo shareholders were actively supporting the demonstrations. Many were escorted out by security after repeatedly shouting during the CEO's remarks. Another group of people chained themselves to one of the building entrances that shareholders were using to get inside. At least 20 people have been arrested so far.
A Wells Fargo spokeswoman told the San Francisco Chronicle that the bank was committed to responsible lending. She said it had forgiven $4.1 billion in loans since 2009, and had offered loan modifications to 740,000 people.