Saturday, April 28, a plucky band of Valley citizens participated in the “Love Modesto” event by protesting the injustice which enabled big bank executives to haul down millions of dollars in bonuses while their policies punished working people throughout the nation. The demonstrators assembled along the curb in front of the McHenry Avenue Bank of America, eliciting sporadic honks of support from a constant stream of passing cars.
A local offshoot of the national, “99% Spring” action group, members waved signs that read, “Too Big to Fail,” and, “Move Your Money.” They were hoping that big bank customers would move their money into smaller banks and credit unions to signal their disapproval of policies that brought the nation to the brink of financial failure.
Spokesman Dan Onorato, a retired Modesto Junior College English Professor, said, “In my block alone, three families have lost or are about to lose their homes. We’re near ground zero for the foreclosure crisis and we’re hoping that protests will encourage the big banks to change their policies.”
While the Modesto demonstrators included between fifteen and twenty participants, nationwide the “99% Spring” coalition claims 100,000 members, including luminaries like Teamsters Union President James Hoffa, United Auto Workers President Bob King, and Mary Kay Henry of Service Employees International.
A statement composed by Onorato and fellow protestor John Lucas read in part:
Our “Love Modesto” action arises out of compassion, an integral part of any genuine love—compassion for all those in our community who because of the banks’ callous pursuit of profit lost part of their life savings or struggle with foreclosure and related financial worries.
Demonstrator Michael Abbott claimed that Bank of America is involved in over 760 local lawsuits, most of them involving foreclosure actions.
If nothing else, the willingness of Modesto’s determined band of “99% Spring” members to protest the banking scandal should prompt Valley citizens to reflect on our “ground zero” foreclosure status. We routinely send anti-government and anti-regulation politicians to our state and national capitols, and then complain that we’re neglected by government. Even free market guru Alan Greenspan has admitted that the banking crisis was in large part due to deregulation, yet most of our local politicians continue to campaign against government in general and especially against government oversight.
Northern San Joaquin Valley citizens routinely volunteer, donate, and give to any number of charities and community benefits. Their outpourings of generosity aren’t limited to “Love Modesto” occasions; they are year round events. Nonetheless, our status as the “Appalachia of the West” should remind us that some problems are too big even for generous hearts.
“Our government’s been bought by big money,” said Dan Onorato last Saturday.
He and his fellow demonstrators are trying to remind us that government should be by and for the people. It’s a lesson that shouldn’t have to be relearned.