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New Jersey protest demands banks be held responsible for housing crisis

By David Hungerford |
April 18, 2010
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Irvington, NJ - The People’s Organization for Progress (POP) held a protest at the Irvington, New Jersey branch of Wachovia, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo, April 17. Irvington has been devastated by foreclosures, with many boarded-up houses on every residential block in town.

Protesters circled in front of the bank and spread out to surrounding corners to distribute fliers and talk to passersby. They chanted “No foreclosures! No evictions,” “You can’t rob the bank but the bank can rob you,” and the classic “No justice, no peace!”

An open letter of demands to John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo, and signed by POP Chairman Lawrence Hamm was given to the branch manager. The letter said the housing bubble was entirely caused by lending institutions. They must bear the costs of its consequences.

The letter said lenders manipulated the mortgage market to sell houses for more than their true market value. Therefore housing values must be written down to what the houses are actually worth. Bank have also hiked credit card rates and fees and charges of many kinds to pay for their losses in the housing bubble; therefore these rate hikes, charges and other abuses must be ended.

Chairman Hamm said Congress takes months to pass any measure that helps the people (like extension of unemployment benefits) and then needs a 900-page document to do it. When Congress bailed out the banks with a $700 billion line of credit under TARP, on the other hand, it took three days and a twelve-page document. He charges Wachovia and Wells Fargo with having particular responsibility for having entrapped African-American and Latino borrowers in subprime mortgages that started off with low interest rates but soon rose as high as 15%, causing huge numbers of foreclosures.

POP members handed out hundreds of fliers to notify people of the upcoming May 22 march against foreclosure and homelessness in nearby Newark. The struggle continues!