September 24, 2012
COLUMBUS — Shareholders trying to get into JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s annual meeting held Tuesday in this midwestern city were greeted by heavy security and over 400 protesters shouting slogans outside every entrance.
At least one person was handcuffed after a group of about 400 protestors marched up Chase’s property and placed a sign on a raft floating in a pond in the bank’s premises. The sign read: “Foreclosed: Chase sinks our economy.”
Police had each entrance blocked ahead of the meeting, as protesters gathered in the rain and cold chanting slogans such as “Make Banks Pay” and carried signs that said: “Chase gets rich, we lose homes, jobs, services.” At least 20 police cruisers circled the building.
Inside, several shareholders spoke out against the bank’s handling of mortgage foreclosures.
“As a person of faith, my God believes you shouldn’t take advantage of people when they are down,” said Dawn Dannenbring of the community group Illinois People’s Action, addressing CEO Jamie Dimon. “Do you believe in the same God I believe in?”
Dimon answered: “That’s a hard one to answer.”
After another question on foreclosures, Dimon said: “We are doing everything we can to keep people in their homes that should stay in their homes.”
Chase, headquartered in New York, is holding its annual meeting in Columbus for the first time. Along with all the major banks in the country, Chase has been criticized for its handling of mortgage foreclosures.
The protests were organized by The New Bottom Line, a coalition of clergy and unions, which is pushing for action and legislation around banking practices that hurt troubled homeowners.
Annual shareholder meetings of large banks routinely draw protesters. However, security this year has been especially tight after Wells Fargo & Co.’s annual meeting on May 4 in San Francisco became a rowdy scene after hundreds protested outside. Inside the meeting, a group of shareholders demanded that the bank immediately stop foreclosures and waive principal for troubled home owners. The shareholders were escorted out of the meeting by police. Eight people were arrested for blocking entrances to the building.