Police arrested 11 protesters outside Wells Fargo’s corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco this morning as hundreds of demonstrators marched around the building and blocked doorways. Early this morning, dozens of demonstrators sat down in front of all four entrances to the building, located at 420 Montgomery St. between Sacramento and California streets.
San Francisco police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said 11 people were arrested on Liedesdorff Street, an alleyway that runs behind the building. After the Liedesdorff Street entrance was cleared around 9:15 a.m., employees and customers were able to enter the building, a Wells Fargo spokesman said. The building had been scheduled to open at 9 a.m. A garage entrance on Sacramento Street was also blocked until around 10 a.m., when protesters moved on their own to join larger groups around the corner.
Protesters continued to block two other entrances, but no further arrests were made, protest organizer Rose Arrieta said. The demonstration ended at around 12:30 p.m. when protesters left the area of their own accord, Arrieta said. The protest began at about 7 a.m. at Market and Drumm streets, where about 200 protesters gathered for an anti-Wall Street rally and march to highlight a number of issues including foreclosures and unemployment.
The group was made up of people of all ages, including some parents who brought their children. Some demonstrators held signs reading “Foreclose Wall Street,” “Stop the corporate greed,” and “We are the 99 percent.” San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, who is running for mayor, was among them and addressed the crowd. “I welcome your fight and I join you in the effort,” he said. They began marching shortly after 7:30 a.m. and headed to the Wells Fargo building.
Kathy Burick, a dance and yoga teacher at City College of San Francisco, attended the protests to represent the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121. “We’re suffering so many cuts from this budget crisis that was manufactured on Wall Street,” Burick said. She said that continuing budget cuts to education have resulted in the loss of thousands of students since she began teaching at the college 32 years ago. “We lose the people who need the school the most,” she said. SEIU 1021 member Al Haggett said he was also there with his union and as part of his work organizing and working with retirees in the Bay Area. “It’s nothing but greed,” he said of the people “on the top” that run the financial institutions like Wells Fargo. “I’ve been working on this campaign for two months,” Haggett said, and estimated that he has seen a 300 percent increase in people participating in such demonstrations in that time. “People are getting the word out,” Haggett said.
Wells Fargo issued a statement today in response to the protest.”Wells Fargo recognizes that Americans are demanding more from their financial institutions during these difficult economic times,” Wells Fargo spokesman Ruben Pulido said. “We are committed to serving the financial needs of individuals and businesses, keeping credit flowing, and working to help those facing financial hardships find solutions,” he said. Pulido said fewer than 1.5 percent of homeowner-occupied loans in Wells Fargo’s servicing portfolio have proceeded to foreclosure sale in the past year, and that the bank is working with hundreds of thousands of customers to modify mortgages. He also said that during the first half of 2011, Wells Fargo made more than 67,000 loans totaling $7.5 billion to small businesses nationwide.
The march is organized by a number of groups including Causa Justa Just Cause, Unite Here Local 2850, the California Partnership, Young Workers United and the Chiinese Progressive Association The groups stated in a press release that they want banks to pay their fair share of taxes and be held accountable for their role in causing the economic crisis. They say they are rallying in solidarity with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which has sparked protests across the country.
In San Francisco’s version, “Occupy SF,” protesters have been camping out in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco at Market and Spear streets. As the crowd gathered for the march this morning, dozens of “Occupy SF” protesters remained in their sleeping bags on the sidewalk.
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