Hundreds of angry union members and activists descended on the streets of downtown Chicago Monday morning to picket the offices of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.
The protestors, who included people from the community group National People's Action and the Service Employees International Union, have organized what they call "three days of mobilization" against "bank greed" to coincide with the annual meeting of the American Bankers Association.
Most of those on the Chicago streets Monday morning appeared to be with a union, and many had been brought in on yellow school buses from around the Midwest. Their message expressed ire at large bonuses being paid to bank executives, home foreclosures and predatory lending practices.
"I'm here basically for my grandchildren," said Peggy Sower Knoepfle, who traveled by bus from Springfield, Ill., with National People's Action. "If we don't stop these foreclosures, we're not going to have a country left."
Another protester, Garry Klicker, who is a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, took time away from harvesting his corn and soybeans near Bloomfield, Iowa, to voice his anger. "This is not a financial system," he said. "This is a financial disaster."
Protesters carried effigies of bank executives, including John Stumpf, the chief executive of Wells Fargo and former Bank of America Corp. chief executive Kenneth Lewis. Some clutched "Wanted" signs bearing the likenesses of bank executives deemed "Wall Street Robber Banker[s]." They carried signs with slogans like "No Bonuses for Big Banks" and chanted slogans like "Bust up big banks!"
The morning protests started at the Chicago offices of Goldman Sachs. A woman on a megaphone shouted, "We're here to tell Goldman Sachs, shame on you! Shame on you for helping bring this country to the brink of a depression!" The crowd, in turn, chanted "Shame on you!" An organizer yelled a list of demands, including that Goldman Sachs support calls for a consumer financial protection agency and donate the money set aside for bonuses to loan modification programs.
The group also asked to meet with Goldman's chairman and chief executive officer, Lloyd Blankfein, "within the next 30 days." At one point the group tried to enter the Goldman Sachs lobby to deliver a letter to Blankfein but was held back by police and security employees. A company representative was eventually sent down to pick up the letter.
The group then marched down the street to the Chicago offices of Wells Fargo. There they also tried to deliver a letter, in this case to Stumpf, the Wells Fargo CEO.
A spokeswoman at Goldman Sachs declined to comment, and officials at Wells Fargo could not immediately be reached to comment.