EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Making their voices heard across Lane County, several Eugene-area residents protest and pull money from big banks as part of nationwide protests on “Bank Transfer Day.”
Hundreds of Lane County residents took to the streets of Downtown Eugene Saturday, November 5th, 2011, protesting at the doors of several local branches of corporate banks including Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
“Bank Transfer Day” started as an online movement that caught steam with many customers unhappy over Bank of America's proposed $5 per month debt card usage fee. B of A has since backed down from the fee, which was supposed to take effect in 2012.
Continuing to protest against big bank practices, protestors in Eugene encouraged visiting customers at the three banks to “put your their money where there morals are,” and to take their businesses to smaller community banks.
The rallying crowd's sheer numbers could be seen easily at Bank of America on West 11th Avenue in Eugene, where protestors wrapped around both driveways of the bank.
In front of the crowd of hundreds, Eugene resident Perry Graham cut up his B of A debt card to the cheer of the crowd. Graham closed a checking, savings and credit card account with the bank.
Inside, Graham says bank representatives offered reasons why he may want to reconsider, however, Graham didn't budge. Graham says the bank representatives were nice about his account closure.
“All the hassle I've dealt with from them over the years. Complicated fees, not really knowing what they are, it being difficult to figure them out. Plus the fact that their overall corporate practices. The fact that they haven't paid taxes, any taxes in at least two years, that just doesn't seem right to me,” says Graham.
Passion was evident in the protestors actions Saturday, with the group as one point shouting information about their cause and chanting various corporate bank protest phrases just inches from the doors of Wells Fargo. On Broadway Street in downtown Eugene.
Eugene Police patrolled near the protest, but did not interfere at any point.
Protestors believe their message is getting across. Part of the protest group, at one point, a woman named Elli was handed a $70,000 deposit slip. Elli was told by the person who made the deposit, who briefly told the story while driving by in a car, that the $70,000 was transferred today.
“A lovely woman came and handed me this receipt, showing me that she had taken 20.. Uh 70,000 dollars out of U.S. Bank and she wanted us to know she put it in Oregon Community Credit Union,” said Elli.
“I feel inspired. I know that we're growing and I'm excited to see the kind of change we are positively making for the benefit of the majority of the population of the world,” said Elli.
Another protestor who closed his Bank of America credit card, Richard Reuter cut his card in half in front of the Bank of America branch on West 11th.
“We the people have spoken. No politicians, not Obama, not republicans, but the movement has spoken, and said we don't want ATM fees. And now we're moving our money from bloody banks into socially responsible credit unions,” says Reuter.
Most credit unions in the Eugene area opened up extra branches on Saturday to try to capitalize on Bank Transfer Day, some even running advertising throughout the week promoting the protest.
Over at SELCO Community Credit Union, branch managers say over the last month, the bank has seen a steady increase in customers opening new accounts.
That jives with national numbers at well. The National Credit Union Administration, the independent federal agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions and insures most federal and state credit unions in the U.S., says that in October 2011, out of its more than 7,200 credit unions, it saw 650,000 new accounts opened. That's double the number of accounts opened in October 2010.