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Students join Occupy Winston-Salem, target Wells Fargo racism

By B.J. Murphy

Andrew Hobbs of Occupy Winston-Salem, holding a sign saying "People Want Action"

Winston-Salem, NC – Over 100 Occupy Winston-Salem activists protested Oct. 22 in front of the local Wells Fargo branch to expose the bank’s racist policies against African-American and Latino communities.

Wells Fargo Bank’s discrimination in lending was the issue of the day. Protesters highlighted the fact that over 37% of all Wells Fargo loans to African Americans are high-cost loans, compared to only 12% to white borrowers. The inequality is due to the banks’ racist predatory lending practices during the boom years. With the bust in the housing market and steady and rising unemployment, many people are losing their savings and then their houses are foreclosed on. Overall, African-Americans are being punished worse by the economic crisis than others. Latinos are suffering too, especially the undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Activists exposed another ugly side of Wells Fargo profit making and their repressive role in American society. According to Andrew Hobbs, one of the leading coordinators for Occupy Winston-Salem, “Wells Fargo mutual funds provide millions of dollars in funding to the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, which are two of the largest corporations running for-profit immigrant detention centers.” The abuses of immigrants at U.S. detention centers are well documented – including physical and abuse of children, illegal strip searches, rapes of women and people dying due to lack of basic medical attention.

Students from Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) called for putting education before profit and shined a light on Wells Fargo’s hand in the ongoing financial crisis. Janae Williams, who led the students from WSSU stated, “Behind the protests, we’re trying to reach to the 99% who are being disenfranchised by this 1% that owns a majority of the wealth. I feel that, as young Black college students for the most part, we are most affected and we are also disproportionately uninformed about the surrounding issues. So next week we plan on coordinating a meeting on Friday and include all the colleges of Forsyth County to try and reach representation and support for the Occupy Movement.”

The collective spirit was high as all the activists chanted, “We are the 99%,” and “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” One activist, armed with an acoustic guitar, gathered everyone to sing historic protest anthems, such as John Lennon’s Imagine, Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, and the famous African American Civil Rights song We Shall Overcome.

After the demonstration, the group held a General Assembly to go over what is next for Occupy Winston-Salem. A consensus was reached for a solidarity march with Occupy Charlotte and other groups on Nov. 5.

Student activists join with Occupy Winston-Salem

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