Occupy Wall Street paid a visit to its archenemies today: Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase. Hundreds of protesters chanted, "They got bailed out, we got sold out" as they marched to the headquarters of each bank, stopping to deliver letters they said were written by the 99 percent and addressed to the 1 percent.
"We should pass a financial transactions tax," said Nick Rudikoff, one of the protesters marching. "And we can use the money to rebuild our education system, rebuild our infrastructure and start building our economy again."
Protesters were met with tight security and a heavy police presence outside each bank's headquarters. The group used the human microphone technique to read some of the letters aloud. At Bank of America, they folded them into paper planes and propelled them into the air. They then asked nearby officers if they'd like them to clean up the paper. One officer asked protesters to collect the paper planes that had landed on their side of the barrier.
One group of protesters dressed as pirates and rode bicycles decorated to look like ships. Benjamin Cerf said his costume was meant to be symbolic.
"We represent the pirate bankers who are stealing our money, stealing our homes and stealing our government," Cerf said.
At the Morgan Stanley headquarters in Times Square, protester Austin Guest invited CEO James Gorman out to lunch at Cipriani, a popular Wall Street restaurant. Guest said protesters would treat since they had been "picking up the tab" for years. A bank official who had come out of the building to communicate with the crowd said Gorman had to decline because he was meeting with a client. The protesters left some letters with the bank official before moving on with the march.
"We loaned him several trillion dollars, so we thought that it would just be nice if he returned the favor by having a little social outing," said Guest. "We understand that he is busy working Washington for lots more tax breaks so it makes sense that he wouldn’t have time to have lunch with us, but maybe another time."
Guest created the website occupytheboardroom.org where people were invited to submit letters to the 1 percent. Many people who wrote letters have lost their homes to foreclosure, are unemployed or are struggling to repay student loans.
"We are asking for jobs to keep our families together. To be able to provide homes, food, clothing and health care," read one letter from Gayle Hawes of Fresno, CA. "To US, these are basic necessities. To YOU, they are ENTITLEMENTS!!"
Earlier this morning, firefighters seized five generators from inside the camp after protesters did not surrender them, according to the New York Daily News. One of the generators ran on biodiesel.
"We did send 30 or 40 firefighters through the park, the police department had its community affairs department there to make sure everyone was safe," Mayor Bloomberg said on weekly radio interview today.
Pictures of the day's protests below: (All photos by Cassandra Garrison/Metro)
Protesters march through Times Square.
Protesters dress as pirates to symbolize "pirate bankers."
The crowd throws letters from the 99 percent in the form of paper airplanes at the Bank of America headquarters.
Protesters offer to help police clean up the paper. Officers ask them to collect the airplanes on their side of the barrier.
Employees of Bank of America watch the protesters, snapping photos from inside the building.
Protesters hold signs depicting finance industry CEOs as pigs.
A company official at Morgan Stanley agrees to take the cell phone
number of a protester who asks if CEO James Gorman will call him after
reading letters from the 99 percent.