Bay Area organizations and families came together Saturday to join the Families Belong Together coalition in a national campaign urging Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase to stop profiting from private prisons.
These two banks have been found to invest in groups like CoreCivic and GEO Group, companies which own and manage immigrant detention centers. In opposition, organizers from La Colectiva de Mujeres, Indivisible SF and Hand in Hand gathered Saturday morning outside the Wells Fargo branch on 16th Street in the Mission District.
“We will not fund your evil mission to lock up families!” Ben Paul of Indivisible SF yelled to the crowd. “We are breaking up with Wells Fargo!”
In December 2016, In the Public Interest, a research and policy center, surveyed that Wells Fargo lent millions of dollars to GEO Group and CoreCivic and continue to do so today. This makes these banks accomplices of profiting from mass incarceration and the criminalization of immigrants, according to In the Public Interest.
Families Belong Together’s national campaign began Thursday with a series of protests at Wells Fargo and Chase branches in Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco. Paul, along with Christine Wei, a volunteer from Hand in Hand, led the final demonstration of the campaign in the Mission Saturday morning.
When the demonstration began the crowd stood directly outside the doors of the bank calling for the community’s attention.
“Wells Fargo & JPMorgan Chase/ Show Some Love/ Break Up with Private Prisons,” read one of the fliers, written in Spanish and English. Mothers from La Colectiva de Mujeres handed out these fliers and walked alongside passing citizens, offering insight on Wells Fargo’s profiting.
Most ATM users and bank customers glared at the protesters. Only a few stopped to ask the protesters questions.
According to the demonstrators, the goal of the protests around the Bay Area is to inform bank customers how their money is ultimately funding the privatization of the prison industry. As of September 2018, there were a total of 12,800 migrant children locked up in detention centers, according to the New York Times.
Members of La Colectiva de Mujeres brought their kids to the demonstrations and shared their stories of their personal encounters with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There are families that have been or are still separated from their children.
Nick Candler, a Wells Fargo customer, closed his account on Saturday morning during the demonstration. Candler walked out of the bank in triumph with his official printed document held up high. He did not approve of Wells Fargo’s associations with privatized prisons and decided to switch banks.
“[Wells Fargo] had no comment about my decision but they made the process easy,” Candler said.
Candler was not aware that these banks are profiting from private prisons such as immigrant detention centers.
President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency on Friday to bypass Congress in order to secure funding for building his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Wei said Trump’s motivation towards building this wall is rooted in hate and racism.
“We must allow families to be together and thrive,” she said.
All the organizations that participated in the demonstration have emerged in response to President Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-family agenda, according to the press release.
At the end of the demonstration, Paul went into the bank to deliver a petition. Paul signed his name at the bottom and wrote, “In support of the families.”
Wells Fargo employees were not willing to comment for this news article.
The series of demonstrations concluded Saturday afternoon and the Families Belong Together coalition opened an online petition to stop funding companies that support prison privatization.