Now that thousands of demonstrators confronted bankers at the "showdown in Chicago" during the American Bankers Association convention there this week, activist energy is now urgently shifting to Washington and to communities across the country.
James Mumm, the director of organizing for National People's Action, in this interview declared that the Chicago demonstrations were a success, with about 5,000 people at the concluding rally Tuesday in front of the convention demanding that the banks stop lobbying against a consumer protection agency and regulatory reform.
At that rally, Service Employees International Union president Anna Burger didn't mince words:
“The big bankers came here to Chicago to celebrate because they think they’ve won again. They got their bailouts, they are raking in profits, and they think they can continue to use taxpayers as their personal ATM.
“That’s why, this week, we are launching a national call to action.
“We cannot rest until we begin to break the power that big banks and corporations have over our economy. They have spent decades rigging a system so that no matter what they do, they will always win at our expense.
"We know who the architects of our economic collapse are—Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, and others.
"We have to investigate them and, if necessary, we have to prosecute them for what they've done to our country."
Mumm also discusses in the interview one of the highlights of the three days of demonstrations, an address Monday from Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chair Sheila Bair.
Bow, with the Obama administration late Tuesday proposing legislation to rein in so-called "too big to fail" banks and with a comprehensive financial reform bill, in Hamm's words, limping out of the House Financial Services Committee, activists have a lot of work to do.
Mumm says that the financial services industry, having been extended a $17 trillion taxpayer lifeline to bail them out of their reckless behavior, is committing millions of dollars to fighting financial reform, and so it will take "constant messages to members of Congress" to counter that lobbying onslaught. The message to Congress, Hamm said, is, "It is time to choose between the American people and real financial reform or you can stay on the side of the big banks. There is a risk there; on the one side is a bunch of money and on the other side is a bunch of people. But it is time to choose."
There will also be grassroots actions around the country, including a community meeting Sunday outside Boston with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and other Fed staff members. That meeting would be the climax of a series of community meetings NPC has held around this country since early summer.
The Showdown in Chicago website will remain active in the coming weeks as a resource for people interested in getting involved, as will the National People's Action site.
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