Portland, Ore. – A group of activists have disrupted business as usual at the Wells Fargo Bank inside the Standard Insurance Building, beginning at 11 a.m. today. The group, in response to the bank’s funding of private prisons and detention centers, has staged a street theatre performance and is holding a nonviolent sit-in in the bank lobby.
Wells Fargo has a large stake in firms, such as Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America, which are major players in for-profit incarceration. The investments serve to enrich the bankers while the 99 percent are the ones who fill prisons, the activists said.
“The profit motive compels Geo Group and others to fill these prisons, which in turn creates lobbying pressure on politicians, which lead to racist drug and immigration laws and the largest prison population in the world,” said Allen Hines, who is participating in the action.
The number of beds in private detention centers used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement alone has increased four-fold since 1994, according to the North American Congress on Latin America. Meanwhile, people of color continue to make up a much higher proportion of the ballooning prison population than is representative of broader society.
The activists are demanding changes:
- Wells Fargo must divest from the prison industry
- The private prison industry – which creates incentives for putting people in jail – must be dismantled
- Politicians must refuse money from prison lobbyists.
As part of the 99 percent, the group says they have several reasons to be upset with the policies of Wells Fargo. In addition to the bank’s funding of prisons, its acquisition of Wachovia, which engaged in money laundering on behalf of Mexican drug cartels, puts Wells Fargo at odds with advocates for peace and freedom.
The people involved in today’s action said they want Wells Fargo to better understand the negative consequences of its drive for profits. While the bank may have some work to do to become a people-friendly business, they said, another world is possible.