Pain + Suffering= $$$ For Wells Fargo
Protests Launch National Prison Industry Divestment Campaign
By Lydia Heather Blumberg
On July 1st, protesters in community and labor groups nationwide will take to the streets in protest of the private prison industry’s business model of lobbying for harsher incarceration policies for drug users, immigrants, and other marginalized populations who are often scapegoated as being the origin of our nation’s problems. These policies have devastated state and federal budgets worldwide, forcing a slash and burn of the social safety nets that the poor and middle classes depend upon for survival. Protesters will call on Wells Fargo Bank to divest its holdings in GEO Group (one of the two largest private prison companies in the US that runs immigrant detention centers and Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp for the federal government) and CCA, Corrections Corporation of America. In addition, protesters will demand that Wells Fargo put a moratorium on foreclosures and stop the criminal lending practices targeting communities of color, as well as pay its fair share of local, state, and federal taxes.
Immigrant detention centers cost taxpayers over $10 billion a year while making big money for hedge fund managers and shareholders like Wells Fargo. Prison stock held by Wells Fargo alone is currently valued at over $88 million. The private prison industry and its investors have a long and shameful record of targeting and incarcerating communities of color by lobbying for legislation to enact “three strikes” laws, criminalize undocumented immigrants (through laws like SB1070 in Arizona and a similar bill in Georgia, home of the largest private prison in the nation), and increase sentencing standards for even the most minor drug offenses. Political candidates financed by these groups often run on a “tough on crime” platform. With CCA and GEO Group making $200 a night per immigrant detained, it all adds up to a profit of over $5 billion a year made just by these two companies–at the expense of taxpayers (and the destruction of the lives of thousands of families of those incarcerated.)
Even San Francisco has fallen prey to the financial manipulation of Wells Fargo and its policies of backing political campaigns that increase incarceration. Last August, The Bay Citizen reported that one of the largest contributions to the so-called “Civil Sidewalks” campaign was made by former Wells Fargo CEO and board chairman, Richard M. Kovacevich. The Civil Sidewalks campaign, backed by banks and big business, put Prop L on last year’s San Francisco ballot, which criminalized people for the simple act of sitting on a sidewalk.
The July 1st action is just one event in a long-term campaign for national prison industry divestment. The protest, sponsored by Communities United Against Violence, among other organizations, will feature a rally and street theater beginning at 11am in front of the Wells Fargo Bank at 464 California Street. Several similar-themed direct actions have happened over the past few months, including a protest in May at a Wells Fargo shareholders’ meeting and a Communities Rising rally on June 17th in front of City Hall. The rally on June 17 was sponsored by CURB (Californians United for a Responsible Budget) and the SF Drug Users’ Union to commemorate 40 years of Drug War failure, calling for an end to the failed War on Drugs and national divestment from the Prison Industrial Complex in order to fund education and health care.
Can’t make it to a rally? Slactivists far and wide can make their voices heard by moving their money from Wells Fargo accounts to local credit unions which invest in our communities. Want to learn more? Surf to immigrantsforsale.org and justicepolicy.org.