LOS ANGELES – Trying to build on momentum generated by the Occupy movement, hundreds of protesters marched through downtown L.A.’s financial district Saturday to vent frustration with banks, income inequality and Wall Street.
The demonstration was timed to coincide with Bank Transfer Day, a grass-roots drive to get people across the nation to move money from big banks into smaller banks or credit unions.
The campaign, which began when an Echo Park woman proposed the idea to friends on Facebook, appears to have been effective: About 650,000 Americans have opened credit union accounts in the past month, a figure much higher than the 80,000 monthly average, according to a trade organization for credit unions.
Doris Fletcher, a 63-year-old former social worker, is one of them. On Saturday morning she walked into a Wells Fargo branch and told the teller: “I want to take my money out.”
Fletcher, who said she is angry about the bailout and the role banks played in the foreclosure crisis, spoke along with several others who had just withdrawn their money at a rally on Bunker Hill before the march began. Several skyscrapers loomed, including the Citigroup Center and the U.S. Bank Tower.
Occupy L.A. protesters have launched regular protests in the financial district since they first set up camp outside of City Hall seven weeks ago. At one march last month, 11 people were arrested and police officers in riot gear were sent to the scene.
Saturday’s demonstration was organized by a coalition of labor unions and community organizations along with the occupiers.
In the afternoon, some marchers sat in on lectures by several well-known economists and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Reich, who served under President Bill Clinton, urged protesters to continue their fight because, he said, it has the potential to bring real change to the nation’s financial system. He said social movements have done so before, like in the years following the Great Depression.