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Talking Back to the "Big 5"

Vancouver's October 22 Run-on-the-Banks Protest

by Joseph Jones Occupy

Bank Customers – the New Normal? [photo: Murray Bush]
Bank Customers – the New Normal? [photo: Murray Bush]

Also posted by Joseph Jones:

For two to three hours on the Saturday afternoon of 22 October 2011, a lively and diverse crowd departed from the Occupy Vancouver site to follow the lead of the Direct Action Committee and make a "run on the banks."

Perhaps coincidentally, a David Suzuki speech at the Vancouver Art Gallery had just hammered away at a refrain of "money talks." A whole lot of people headed right out to spend a few hours talking back to money.

After several blocks, a handful of police caught up with the action, and sometimes managed to clear traffic ahead of the marchers. Three motorcycle cops and two foot patrol seemed to be what stayed with the procession throughout. The City of Vancouver has obviously dialed back on burning up about $100,000 a day on unnecessary policing.

Five separate speakers uncovered the Big 5 dirt on Canadian bailouts, outsize profits, mortgageering to prop up Vancouver's real estate bubble, social irresponsibilities like tar sands financing, and tax avoidance scams.

Not one drop of rain came down as the run stopped off at various branch locations. The featured direct action was close-out of accounts to protest the many taints attached to big money. RBC Royal Bank alone lost five depositors.

The large crowd pretty well filled the long block of Richards Street from Georgia to Robson. In the Robson intersection, the head of the march executed the likely unwitting but excellent tactic of first heading south on Richards, then pulling back, then heading west on Robson, then pulling back, then heading east on Robson.

This scenario replayed three to six more times, depending on how you count. If you as a group figure things out as you go along, that is what everyone else has to do too. A great defense against infiltration and hijacking and cooptation. In a sense, the essence of Occupy.

As visits to different banks multiplied, supporters of the withdrawing depositors felt ever freer to swarm into the targeted branches. More than once, uninvited guest ipod intersected with bank sound system to fuel some boogie.

Solidarity came to the fore in the CIBC at 996 Homer, when report circulated outside that tellers were refusing to close out accounts. The interior of the bank jammed with a shouting influx. At least two police officers worked their way toward the tellers to check out what was happening. In the end, the bank respected its departing customers, and did what they requested. Support from the many others present undoubtedly helped CIBC to reach that decision.

At mid-march a small contingent of black bloc first became evident. When this occurred, the two foot patrollers perked up their attentiveness. One of them moved into the right side of the march, and ignored a request to respect the weapons-free zone of the street and to get back on the sidewalk. (Despite scattered proclamations of cop adoration, none of those walking in the street attempted to become cops themselves, as some Occupy propaganda has recommended.)

The last stop was the biggest, the TD Canada Trust tower. Big enough to accommodate a large percentage of those who had stuck with the whole parade, and perhaps also drawing people from the main site across the street. By 4:10 a dance party was vibrating the floor. Two bright green TD parasols started swirling overhead. After about ten minutes two police officers engaged with two — and then three — persons sitting on the teller counter midway down the bank. The atmosphere shifted from festive to defensive as observers clustered around the developing situation. Then four officers from the south end of the room moved down the inside of the counter, effectively surrounding the sitters.

Police command central on the scene located at the empty south end of the room. Those in charge appeared to be one officer with three silver stars on epaulet and two others with three silver stripes on sleeve. (After the bank was cleared, this trio debriefed on the NE corner of Georgia and Howe.) At 4:25 five officers; at 4:33 six more officers; at 4:35 total of 18 officers talking about forming a straight line across the south end; at 4:36 officers in formation numbered 22.

While this massing took place, the group was discussing, and saying:

Nobody has asked us to leave … Thus far, our choice … Choose to leave now or wait for cops … Think of longevity … Let's be wise … Ridiculous to preemptively police ourselves … Police protect the banks [brief chant].

As most of the people walked out, seven helmeted officers stood gathered together just inside the entrance.

Outside, demonstrator attention immediately focused on and blocked a limo, headed east in the left lane on Georgia. The young driver explained that he was just coming off shift, and that his limo was empty. He crouched to converse frankly with a few people sitting on the pavement about getting home to his wife and young child. They quickly recognized that he was just a worker, not the status symbolized by the limo, and readily vacated the pavement for him. Three police officers only had to stand by, and watch reason and common sense effect rapid and appropriate resolution.

Meanwhile, other demonstrators continued to focus on a group that had chosen to remain sitting on the floor of the bank. At 4:48 a strong and persistent chant of "Let the media in" had no impact on the three officers blocking the door. From the side of the building, four or five employees could be seen moving out at 5:02. At 5:10 the eleven persons still sitting on the floor walked out, leaving the cops and the managers to lock up the first floor of the tower — more than an hour after official closing time.

Route of the Run:

2:12 W from Hornby @ Georgia
2:15 N from Georgia @ Burrard
2:18 E from Burrard @ Dunsmuir
Speech in front of TD Waterhouse at 888 Dunsmuir
2:27 S from Dunsmuir @ Granville (after dancing in intersection)
2:30 E from Granville @ Georgia
2:37 S from Georgia @ Richards
2:40 E from Richards @ Robson
S from Robson @ Homer to
RBC Royal Bank 996 Homer @ Nelson
2:55 E from Homer @ Nelson to
BMO Bank of Montreal 1004 Hamilton @ Nelson
3:03 return to RBC Royal Bank 996 Homer to support
3:15 S from Homer @ Nelson
3:18 CIBC 1096 Homer @ Helmcken
3:40 exit CIBC
3:42 N from Helmcken @ Seymour
3:48 N from Seymour @ Smithe
3:55 pause at Scotiabank 650 W Georgia
4:00 TD Canada Trust 701 W Georgia
4:39 exit TD Canada Trust
5:10 eleven sit-ins exit TD Canada Trust

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CCEC: an alternative to the corporate banks

those who are looking for an alternative to corporate banks can't do better than CCEC (Community Congress for Economic Cooperation) at 2250 Commercial Drive. Take your money out of the corporate banks and invest in your own community.

CCEC Alternative

Thanks so much for that supplementary information. I believe I heard one of the withdrawers recommending that alternative, but did not catch the long name. It is so hard to take comprehensive and accurate notes in such a noisy and fluid and participatory situation. So you have just become a small co-author on this story. Much credit to you.

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