Immigration protesters at Bank of America
A group of about a dozen activists tried to deliver a list of demands at Bank of American Headquarters in Charlotte Monday but found the doors locked as they attempted to enter the building. A security guard accepted a letter from the group.
It was part of the grassroots fight to shield Mecklenburg County’s estimated 54,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Organizers of the event at Trade and Tryon streets say their intent is to raise awareness of the role Charlotte corporations play in support of what they call “President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.” Targets in Charlotte include Wells Fargo, Bank of America and other companies involved in the financial industry, said Héctor Vaca of the immigrant advocacy group Action NC.
The 10:30 a.m. event is being staged just 90 minutes before a larger rally set at Marshall Park. Both events are part of a nationwide series of May 1 rallies in support of causes ranging from workers’ rights to protecting undocumented immigrants from federal agents.
Among the North Carolina rallies are events Monday in Raleigh and Durham, organized by a newly formed coalition calling itself The Majority.
Vaca said the gathering at Trade and Tryon will be a first of its kind in Charlotte for the ongoing fight against federal immigration policies. He said challenging corporations is part of a national grassroots campaign coordinated through the Center for Popular Democracy, based out of Washington, D.C.
“We have spent a lot of time trying to get the attention of elected officials and now we’re working to bring attention to the contribution corporations make in promoting the Trump agenda,” Vaca said.
“Our message to the banks: You benefit from the immigrant community. We are your customers and you make money off of us. Now you are going to be held responsible for funding the legislators who promote hatred. We want the banks to disassociate with anything to do with the Trump agenda.”
He said this includes offering financial or material support for the border wall the Trump administration wants to build along the Mexican border. “If these corporate entities do not support our community and change their practices, we should move our money,” he said.
Vaca said the rally’s participants will include immigrant families, Greenpeace and the Charlotte NAACP.
Action NC is also playing a role in the rally planned at Marshall Park. Organizers include the Southeast Asian Coalition, Comunidad Colectiva and Alerta Migratoria, all of which are pushing city and county leaders to defy federal laws that call for the arrest and deportation of people who are in the country illegally.
Backers of the Marshall Park event are calling on businesses to close, people to skip work, and students to avoid going to class on Monday. In cases where businesses stay open, Comunidad Colectiva is calling for a boycott.
“This is a day of resistance, a day to uplift the voice of all those who are marginalized and are not being heard by our city, state, and national leaders,” said a statement from Comunidad Colectiva. “Immigrants, Muslims, queer and trans people, black and brown, are under attack and are not being protected.”
It remains unclear if participation will rival the Feb. 16 Day Without An Immigrant rally that drew up to 8,000 people to Marshall Park. It was estimated 250 immigrant-run businesses closed that day in Charlotte.
On Friday, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools warned students in the district not to skip classes for the Monday event, a move it also made prior to A Day Without An Immigrant. CMS reported it had about 16,000 more absences that day than the day before, suggesting many students skipped classes to participate in A Day Without An Immigrant.
Comunidad Colectiva recently delivered a list of demands to city and county leaders, most of which involved greater protections for undocumented immigrants in the community.
Last week, a key organizer of the Monday rally, immigrant activist Oliver Merino, received a threatening letter that warned him and other immigrants to go into hiding. The letter was signed by a group calling itself the Midnight Militia. Merino posted the letter on Facebook but did not alert police to the threat, said an email from Comunidad Colectiva.
“These threats (are) an example of why we need our ‘community leaders’ to come out publicly and aggressively in favor of the immigrant and undocumented community,” said a statement from Comunidad Colectiva.
About the rallies
The rally against corporate financial support of federal leaders will be 10:30 a.m. at Bank of America, corner of E. Trade Street and N. Tryon Street).
The rally and march “in defense of immigrants, refugees, workers, and other communities affected by Trump’s agenda” will be from noon to 4 at Marshall Park, 800 E. 3rd St. The rally will conclude with a march to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.