It wasn’t business as usual yesterday at dozens of Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase bank branches across the country. It was a day of protests, petitions, and teddy bears, mariachi bands and “playdate protests,” to demand that the giant banks stop financing private prisons. Over 100,000 signatures were hand-delivered by thousands of activists to individual bank locations across the country, including branches in Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, Portland, Ohio, Boston, Baltimore and throughout the Bay Area.
The actions were part of the #FamiliesBelongTogether corporate accountability campaign and Candide Group’s Real Money Moves initiative against the abuses of the private prison industry. Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase currently provide financing to GEO Group and CoreCivic, the biggest operators of private prisons and immigrant detention centers in the U.S. Over 60% of immigrant detainees are held in privately owned facilities, and private prisons receive over $1B a year in contracts with ICE – almost $5.5M a day of taxpayer money.
“The inhumane and cruel conditions that our immigrant families face in these for-profit detention centers have resulted in torture, abuse, and the deaths of children and other vulnerable people in the last few months. Wells Fargo and JP should have nothing to do with tearing families apart.”Matt Nelson, Executive Director of Presente.org
Wells Fargo has begun to respond to the pressure. In a December message to shareholders, the bank publicly declared that private prisons are a risky investment and run counter to its human rights policies.
The day started with a mariachi band in New York:
🚨HAPPENING NOW: On #Valentines Day: Immigrant NYers bring mariachis to Jamie Dimon’s home, CEO of @JPMorgan @Chase demanding its company to break up w/ private prisons! #BackersofHate pic.twitter.com/KTRtfaH7ez
— Make the Road NY (@MaketheRoadNY) February 14, 2019
At the Wells Fargo bank three blocks from the White House, DRAD joined with MomsRising and their babies, and activists from Jobs With Justice, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the (Catholic) Conference of Superiors of Men to deliver petitions to a receptive employee. The bank responded to a tweet about the delivery yesterday. Here’s the original tweet:
Estamos pidiendo a @WellsFargo dejar de financiar corporaciones privadas de prisión que están sacando provecho de la separación familiar. https://t.co/dzK1cQ8lxo #FamiliesBelongTogether #RealMoneyMoves pic.twitter.com/9ZZcMzCsk8— MamásConPoder (@MamasConPoder) February 14, 2019
And the bank’s response (translation below)
“We will continue working to decrease the number in 2019. We respect and take your feedback very seriously. Thank you -Johanna”
“We take the discussions about immigration policies in our country very seriously. Because of this, we would like you to know that we have significantly reduced financing to these types of corporations. -Johanna”
Meanwhile, activists braved stormy weather in San Francisco to rally outside the Wells Fargo Headquarters.