Protests snarl traffic, make noise at banks

UPDATE • Three dozen people arrested during morning march and sit-in staged at Wells Fargo
by: Jaime Valdez Kathy Carpenter of Vancouver, Wash., stands in protest outside a downtown Portland Bank of America ATM during Thursday’s day of action organized by the Occupy Portland movement. Protesters marched on several banks during the day to protest foreclosure issues and economic inequality.

Occupy Portland protesters occupied the lobby of a Wells Fargo Bank branch downtown during Thursday's 'day of action' against banks across the nation.

Several activists sat in the lobby of the Wells Fargo inside the Standard Insurance Building, 900 S.W. Fifth Ave., starting at 11 a.m. to protest, among other things, the bank's funding of private prisons. Nine people were arrested during the sit-in.

Protesters also called on banks to stop foreclosing on people who are behind in their mortgages.

'Physically shutting down the banks on November 17 demonstrates that the Occupy movement wants multinational, too-big-to-fail banks out of our democracy,' said Kari Koch, an organizer with N17, the Occupy group responsible for Thursday's protests. 'They fund legislation and support politicians that are at the core of the issues that bring working people to be involved with the Occupy movement.'

Outside Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase branches downtown, protesters marched, chanted and drummed their message, trying to force the businesses to close for the day.

'Refusing to enforce home foreclosures is one concrete way that we can reclaim power from the big banks and meet the needs of the people,' said N17 organizer David Osborn. 'It is time to reclaim our economy and recreate our democracy.'

A dozen groups took action with the Occupy protesters Thursday under the theme 'Get banks out of our Democracy.'

The Portland Central American Solidarity Committee demonstrated against Wells Fargo's profiting from the detention of immigrants through funding of private prisons.

The Wells Fargo Embargo Affinity Group called on banks to help reduce student loan debt. The Animal Defense League joined the demonstration, saying banks had 'become a lynchpin in the systematic destruction of the earth.'

The Clown Affinity Group issued a 'Clownifesto' and used humor to protest similar issues.

Portland Rising Tide participated in the protest to draw attention to bank funding of destructive industries, like coal mining.

Bridge closes to traffic

During Thursday morning's rush hour, a march by Occupy protesters and labor unions spread across the Steel Bridge in hopes of shutting down traffic. Portland police closed the bridge to all but TriMet buses and trains.

Police said 25 people were arrested during the morning protest, most charged with disorderly conduct.

The marches were the first major protests scheduled since Occupied Portland campers were evicted from Chapman and Lownsdale squares during the weekend.

Police said they were prepared for the marches, even though organizers had not obtained permits for a large rally at Waterfront Park or a march across the Steel Bridge.

'The Portland Police Bureau is committed to vigorously pursuing the goal of allowing participants to express their view, which is their free speech right,' according to a police statement released early Thursday. 'Our overall objective is to take all appropriate action to help make this event happen in a way that is safe for participants as well as the general public. Demonstrators and police have the shared responsibility to keep events safe for all and to ensure that everyone's rights are maintained.'

Reporter Kevin Harden contributed to this news story.