By Julia Conley
Chanting, “Wells, Chase, B of A, public bank’s a better way!” social justice groups rallied at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday to demand that New York City divest from Wall Street banks and establish a public bank that is “expressly chartered to serve the public interest.”
“New York deserves a public bank that will invest in community needs, and be accountable to New York City residents—one that will prioritize housing…and not prey on low-income New Yorkers,” said Scott Hutchins, a member of the grassroots social justice group Picture the Homeless.
The more than two dozen groups that gathered on Wall Street also included New York Working Families, the Pan-African Community Development Initiative, and Food & Water Watch.
Investment in Wall Street banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of Americas, and JPMorgan Chase is synonymous with harming the environment, propping up private prisons, and putting working families at risk for financial collapse as well as pushing them out of New York neighborhoods, argued the groups.
The rally came days after the Trump administration announced it would roll back the Volcker Rule, which since 2014 has prohibited banks from using their accounts to conduct risky, speculative trading, in an effort to avoid another financial meltdown like the one that threw the country into a recession in 2008.
“With the Trump Administration and Congress handing out massive corporate tax breaks, rolling back federal financial reform, and gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wall Street is heading straight for another crisis,” said Deyanira Del Rio, Co-Director of New Economy Project. “A public bank will allow New York City to deposit our public money with a bank that belongs to New Yorkers.”
The crowd also heard from a Brooklyn resident whose rent has doubled in recent years and who spoke about the exorbitant fees New Yorkers pay to big banks every year, a student who spoke out against predatory loan practices and Wall Street’s investment of billions of dollars in fossil fuels that accelerate and worsen the climate crisis, and a social justice activist who told the crowd of JPMorgan Chase’s support for private prisons.
“As long as the city continues to deposit its money in prison financiers like JPMorgan Chase, we will remain complicit in systems of oppression that profit off of incarcerating our communities,” said Bamsa Eid of the racial and economic justice group Enlace. “It’s time New York City puts its money where its mouth is, divests from Wall Street, and—through a public bank—invests in us.”
A public bank would allow New York’s public money to go towards investing in small businesses run by locals, low-income housing, and financial services to immigrant and low-income communities.
“Here’s the deal: New York City currently deposits billions of public dollars in the big Wall Street banks,” said Stephan Edel, director of New York Working Families. “These bankers make millions off these deposits and high fees, while providing little benefit to the City, small businesses, and residents of New York. Our money should be put to use in our communities.”