Students, Homeowners Whoring Themselves for the Banks

“People are whoring themselves for the benefit of the banks, so they can make their payments,” protested an Occupy activist who goes by Miss Nicole, during a rally in downtown Minneapolis to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Without a hint of shame, Nicole told fellow demonstrators that she had to resort to prostitution for a year to pay off her debt.

The peaceful rally began at Hennepin County Government Plaza, where Occupy MN briefly pitched tents last fall, and marched through the Minneapolis skyway to Wells Fargo bank. Along the way they chanted such slogans as, “All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street!”, “People, power, Student power!”, “The people, united, will never be defeated!” and “Zero out my credit score, I won’t play your game no more!” Outside Wells Fargo, with police watching nearby, Occupy activists lit pieces of paper on fire in a trash bucket to symbolically burn their student and housing debt.

“We had people bring their debt documents, their student loan agreements, their medical bills, their credit card bills, and bring them to burn them,” explained Occupy activist Cat Salonek. “In the U.S., in order to raise a family, in order to be seen as successful, you have to take on debt, whether it’s to own a home, to get an education, to keep your heart beating … and today we burned our bills.”

“I’m tens of thousands of dollars in debt for wanting an education,” said Occupy activist Ty Moore. “Banks have used their political power to push down budgets funding social needs, to push down taxes on the rich, and so that just to afford an education, or a house, or our groceries, we have to go deep into debt. … It’s like the company town of old, but with Wall Street as our masters.”

Others, students and homeowners alike, shared their stories of how debt to their bank has affected their lives. One Iraq war veteran who worked in a trauma unit in Baghdad lamented how many of his fellow soldiers joined army to go fight in another country, point guns at, and shoot people, just to be able to afford to go to college.

Joining them was Bobby Hull, the animated Vietnam veteran and former Marine who teamed up with Occupy Homes last winter to help save his foreclosed home in South Minneapolis.

“You can hear it on the east coast and west coast, and from every mountain top the same thing,” cried Hull. “But yet they don’t listen to a word that we have to say. The legislators, the governors, the senators don’t have a word against the banks. They can’t touch them. We need to re-regulate the banks.”

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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