Wells Fargo San Francisco headquarters blockaded as inauguration day actions proceed

Annette Bernhardt

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Wells Fargo San Francisco headquarters blockaded as inauguration day actions proceed

San Francisco — Bay Area residents, led by queer and disability-rights advocates and housing rights activists, have formed a blockade around the global headquarters of Wells Fargo, as well as the bank’s home mortgage offices, in San Francisco’s financial district.

In recent months, Wells Fargo has become the object of targeted protests for its role in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, for its targeting of African American and Latino homebuyers for subprime loans, and for broad violations of customers’ rights and privacy in the “fake bank account scandal”. Wells Fargo Board member Elaine Chao, who profited handsomely between 2011 and 2015 when the bank opened 2 million accounts in the names of customers without their knowledge, is Donald Trump’s nominee for Transportation Secretary.

Wells Fargo also holds the distinction of being a financier that stands to profit both from the Dakota Access Pipeline and from private prisons and detention centers. The displacement caused by Wells Fargo particularly impacts people of color, as well as disabled people, trans and queer people who often rely on communities of care to survive and thrive.

The blockade of Wells Fargo today is part of the divestment movement led by a groundswell of indigenous peoples, climate justice groups, immigrant rights groups, prison abolition groups, Queer and trans people, and workers’ rights groups.

The Human Rights Campaign has placed Wells Fargo among the top hundred LGBT employers in the U.S – but many in the queer and trans community find this offensive.

“As a trans woman, I am ashamed that Wells Fargo says they’re Queer friendly, while discriminating against people of color and paying for a pipeline that threatens native people and the climate,” said Bri Garnett. “They have no place in San Francisco!”

The bank was fined $185 million by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the fake bank account scandal. In an earlier scandal dating to 2012, Wells Fargo settled with the DOJ for $175 million for targeting African-American and Latino clients for sub-prime loans. These fines, however, pale in comparison to the bank’s $23 billion in profits in 2015.

Wells Fargo Executive VP Jeffrey Grubb is a trustee of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, which funds the virulently anti-LGBTQI, anti-reproductive rights Alliance Defending Freedom, the anti-evolution, anti-science Discovery Institute, and the anti-labor Freedom Foundation.

Protesters are demanding an end to Wells Fargo’s financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline and its predatory lending practices, and are offering public support to the San Francisco City Council resolution, introduced by Board of Supervisors member John Avalos, to suspend city business with Wells Fargo, including the issuing of municipal bonds and using the bank’s investment products.

“As someone who grew up in San Francisco, I know this city is a sanctuary in so many ways – but Wells Fargo is not that,” said Dylan Cooke of the Catalyst Project. “Wells Fargo, which profits from predatory targeting of communities of color, is a blight on our sanctuary city.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Annette Bernhardt