Sunday, November 6, 2011


Going after the banks

To Tiffany Mellers, big banks are doing the American people an injustice.

They’re charging high credit card rates, making it difficult to get mortgages and hitting people with excessive fees. They’re also not investing in the local communities like Bridgeport, said Mellers, herself a city resident. At the same time, the large banks are pulling in record profits and rewarding their top officers with hefty bonuses. In many cases, they’re also paying little or no taxes, Mellers said..

Like thousands of others around the country, Mellers has decided that the people have to fight back. One way they’re doing that is by encouraging people to move their money from banks like Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo into small banks and credit unions.

On Saturday, Mellers took part in “Bank Transfer Day” --- a nationwide action where people were urged to withdraw their money from large banks and shift the funds to smaller institutions.

Mellers joined several other protestors in Bridgeport, standing outside the Bank of America branch on Middle Street and then on Main Street and Capital Avenue, to urge people to drop business with the bank.

“This is about holding banks like this accountable,” said Mellers, as she handed out flyers near the branch on Main Street.

By investing money in credit unions and community banks, she said, people will better insure their money will be invested locally.

“These banks aren’t recycling the money locally,” Mellers, pointing back at the Bank of America sign.

The nationwide protest, also called “Move Your Money Day,” was organized by and a number of other progressive organizations. Since September, there’s been increasing calls for consumers to move their money out of mega banks. Part of the drive has emanated from the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is aimed at making corporations, including large banks, pay their fair share in taxes and act more responsibly in terms of credit card rates, foreclosure procedures and fees.

Just since Sept. 29, credit unions have pulled in some 650,000 new customers, according to an industry trade group. That influx took place after Bank of America announced they were hitting customers with a new $5-a-month debit card fee. (The bank has rescinded its decision, and other banks dropped similar plans).

Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives owned by their members. They generally charge less fees than banks and offer credit cards with lower rates of interest.

Mellers is an organizer with and a member of the “American Dream Movement.”

In the Saturday protest, Mellers was dressed up in a colorful red, white and blue costume. Calling herself the “American Dream Girl,” she held up a sign saying “Save the American Dream.”

When she wasn’t chatting with people who stopped at the stop light, she sometimes broke out in song. One ditty went:

“The banks have tanked, We bailed them out, It’s time to take your money out. Move your money!”

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