Police plan to step up their presence in uptown Charlotte on Wednesday for Bank of Americas annual shareholders meeting, which last year drew as many as 600 protesters who blocked the streets.
This year, police and even some involved in organizing the demonstrations expect fewer protesters than last year, when the shareholders meeting took place amid the run-up to the Democratic National Convention. Some protesters staged events Tuesday, but a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department official described the day as low-key.
Last year six arrests were made in connection with protests, but no arrests had been made by Tuesday afternoon. Pretty typical of what we expected, CMPD Maj. Jeff Estes said Tuesday. I think youll be underwhelmed tomorrow, as well.
Still, police are preparing for hundreds. For the second year in a row, the city has granted police expanded powers for the annual meeting of the nations second-largest lender by assets. According to the city, the extraordinary event declaration affects a roughly 72-block section of uptown from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
The declarations ban people from bringing a range of items into the zone, such as hammers, fireworks and other things that can be used as weapons. The declarations also give police officers more latitude to stop people who appear to have one of those items.
This years shareholders meeting is set to start at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Charlotte Marriott City Center hotel, 100 W. Trade St., on the block opposite the banks headquarters.
Just before noon Tuesday, roughly 15 protesters gathered outside Bank of America Plaza, directly across Trade Street from the banks headquarters, to read the names of 500 Mecklenburg County homeowners they said had been foreclosed on by the bank. Participants in the protest, organized by Durham-based Reinvestment Partners, complained that the bank takes too long to handle requests to modify loans. Each time 50 names were read, a demonstrator rang a bell.
Earlier in the morning in the same block, a handful of people participated in an event organized by San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network to criticize the banks funding of the coal industry.
Reinvestment Partners organized a zombie parade in the afternoon. Participants, dressed as zombies, filed past the banks headquarters and handed out fliers on zombie foreclosures a term for when a borrower and the lender have walked away from a property, leaving it in limbo.
Bank of America did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Tuesday, the bank said in a securities filing that it believes it has substantially fulfilled its obligations to help homeowners as part of last years national mortgage settlement.
Some protesters were in Charlotte to speak at the shareholders meeting. Thats what brought Josh Zinner, co-director of New York-based Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, to the city. The banks shareholders are set to vote on a NEDAP proposal that calls for an independent review of the banks mortgage servicing and foreclosure practices to make sure they do not violate fair housing and fair lending laws. Wells Fargo shareholders, at the banks annual meeting last month, rejected a similar proposal from NEDAP.
NEDAP owns about $3,000 in Bank of America shares, a strategic move to allow the organization to get proposals before shareholders.
Theyre not complying with the National Mortgage Settlement, Zinner said. He said there are widespread problems and abuses in the ways theyre doing servicing.
Luis Rodriguez, a Charlotte-based community organizer for Action NC who participated in the bell-ringing demonstration, also expects fewer protesters this year.
We all kind of agreed last year was great, it raised a lot of awareness, he said. What we were going for last year was very tall. This year were going for very broad.
Massive numbers of people in the street is great. This year its about really speaking to (Bank of America CEO) Brian Moynihan as directly or indirectly as possible so that we can get the message to him that people are not happy.
Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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