Occupy Berkeley announced this week that it will attempt to shut down the downtown branch of Chase Bank on Saturday by staging a peaceful demonstration in front of the building.
Starting at 10 a.m., the group plans to block the bank’s door and ATMs as well as bar patrons from entering the bank — located at 2150 Shattuck Ave. — according to Bo-Peter Laanen, UC Berkeley junior and one of the group’s facilitators. However, they will allow employees to go in and out of the building and will not block the entrance to the nearby Downtown Berkeley BART station, he said.
He added that based on the bank’s previous reaction to protests, he thinks the employees will be allowed to go home and the branch will close.
If enough people show up, the protest will spread to the nearby Wells Fargo and Bank of America branches, according to Occupy Berkeley’s Facebook page.
Larry Silver, Occupy Berkeley protester and a Berkeley resident of more than 25 years, said the movement is singling out Chase because the success of last week’s Bank Transfer Day — an event encouraging people to shift their money from large banks to credit unions — has put the institution ahead of Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
“We’re advocating taking your money out of the big banks and putting them into local credit unions,” he said. “It can be put to better use (there).”
Chase could not be reached for comment.
Silver said he does not know how many people will participate, but hopes “as many a possible” will attend.
“It’s going to be nonviolent and peaceful,” he said.
City spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said there is general concern over public safety, protection of property and access.
Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, said that the department does not reveal its plans regarding protests but that its mission is always to keep residents safe.
“It would be premature of us to speculate on numbers of individuals/crowds or what may occur, but our plans encompass community safety, to include participants in the action and if possible a liaison — dialogue with the organizers to communicate what is legally appropriate and what would be considered unlawful,” Kusmiss said in a email.
Occupy Berkeley began about a month ago, when protesters decided to occupy the area outside the downtown Bank of America branch. Later in October, the group split into two, some staying at the bank and others occupying Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Late last week, the group decided to consolidate the two groups and all move to the park, according to Laanen.
“It’s just more comfortable for us. That spot outlasted itself,” he said. “We’ll probably go back when the rainy season is over.”
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