COLUMBIA — A group of 60 Missouri residents is traveling by bus to Columbus, Ohio, on behalf of the Mexico-based organization Grass Roots Organizing to protest at the annual meeting of JPMorgan Chase & Co. shareholders.
The group, which left Monday and will protest on Tuesday, is acting in conjunction with National People’s Action, an organization that has facilitated similar protests in New York, San Francisco and Charlotte, N.C., as part of a national campaign called Showdown in America.
The aim of the protests is simple: to hold big banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America accountable for the 2008 budget crisis that NPA says was caused by irresponsible loaning and predatory lending programs such as payday loans.
MU freshman Eli Tinker-Fortel is among those headed to Ohio. Tinker-Fortel first got involved in GRO in 2007, when he attended a presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Since then, he has been active in local as well as national politics and is particularly excited about the Showdown in Ohio.
“Young people are upset at what the banks are doing,” Tinker-Fortel said. “It’s really exciting to come together with people my age, of all ages, who are mad at the banks for what they did. Banks should pay back the $100 billion from the federal government and stop kicking people out of their homes.”
Robin Acree, a founding member of GRO, said she is upset that “big banks and Wall Street are set, while everyday people suffer.” Acree said she hopes the showdown would bring attention to the actions of big banks, actions Acree called “criminal.”
She emphasized the ethical concerns about payday loans, calling it a "predatory practice" that creates a cycle of debt among people in a vulnerable demographic.
Acree said she hopes banks such as JPMorgan Chase eventually will be held accountable for the crisis.
“Banks must stop giving bonuses and be held accountable to federal law," Acree said.
The group will picket on Tuesday, protesting JPMorgan Chase’s government bailout, which GRO said amounted to $100.7 billion. They also will argue that while families are suffering because of JPMorgan Chase and other banks’ actions, CEOs of those banks are receiving extravagant bonuses. That's money National People's Action believes would be better spent investing in communities and paying back the government.
In a written statement, GRO accused JPMorgan Chase of avoiding federal taxes by “maintaining over 50 tax-sheltered overseas subsidiaries.” In addition, GRO said, by avoiding financial responsibility, big banks defer those responsibilities to taxpayers.
GRO is an affiliate of the NPA, which on its website describes itself as “a network of community power organizations from across the country that work to advance a national economic and racial justice agenda.”