Suspicion of fraud by activists fuels Tampa Bank of America protest

05/09/12 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

Two progressive-leaning activist groups protested Bank of America in downtown Tampa today. The group Move On is calling on the bank to begin helping homeowners who are facing foreclosure and pay their fair share of taxes. That is something protesters say the corporation is not doing. The protest was held in solidarity with a larger demonstration in Charlotte, North Carolina where Bank of America is conducting its annual share holder meeting. Several demonstrators have already been arrested there in an attempt to enter the meeting. Jake Vigness, a supporter of Occupy Tampa, said it’s the heads of companies like Bank of America who should be getting arrested.

“It’s really telling that they’re the ones who got arrested, not the people who concocted this fraud, not the people who sold junk derivatives at triple A ratings. It was the people who were protesting it and trying to call attention to these problems that get arrested. I think that that’s just deeply telling of the way the system is rigged up right now and the general values of the law right now.”

Among their complaint that Bank of America is at the forefront of troubles facing homeowners, Vigness also believes that the banking conglomerate has been involved in some shady business practices.

“It’s an insolvent company that committed fraud on a massive scale and is only basically surviving on taxpayer dollars. The fact that these problems haven’t been addressed is deeply problematic.”

And Chris Radulich from the group Move On argues that Bank of America used government bail out money unfairly.

“I mean, they borrow money from the feds at 0% and then loan it back to the feds at 3%. That’s one of the reasons they are still in existence.”

The 20 or so protesters were met by only a small showing of Tampa police officers who warned them at the onset of their demonstration about where they could and could not stand. But in the Charlotte, protesters weren’t as lucky.

Five people were arrested there this morning as they tried to force their way into the annual Bank of America shareholders' meeting. Police used a new ordinance to declare the gathering an extraordinary event subject to special restrictions.

Hundreds gathered on the streets this morning as dozens of police officers worked to contain the protest.

Johnny Rosa of Framingham, Mass., was one of those arrested. Before being taken into custody, Rosa said his home had been foreclosed. He wanted to tell shareholders the foreclosure was wrong because he wanted to make payments.

If a gathering is deemed an extraordinary event, authorities can designate areas where people aren't allowed to carry backpacks, magic markers and other items. A similar measure is being considered in Tampa for the Republican National Convention in August.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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