Roughly 50 Minneapolis protesters rallied outside the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center on Tuesday to pressure Wells Fargo CEO Jon Stumpf as he spoke at a lunch lecture.
The group wants the bank to adopt policies in the public interest, including lowering interest rates on student loans, stopping home foreclosures and renegotiating mortgages.
“We would like to get Stumpf to meet with representatives of the community about some changes they could make in their policies and undo some the damage that they’ve done to education in our economy,” said Kevin Whelan, spokesman for Minnesotans for a Fair Economy.
But protesters were unable to deliver their speech to Stumpf and spent about two hours picketing outside the building.
“Two sentences were about all we were able to get out before security forced us out,” said Carol Nieters, executive director of SEIU Local 284.
SEIU Local 284 — a statewide association of education workers — and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy organized the rally.
Participants said they had attempted to schedule a meeting with Wells Fargo executives to discuss changes in the past, but were refused.
Kira Downey, a former University of Minnesota student, told her story at the rally.
Her parents took out a loan with Wells Fargo in 1998 for a home remodel. But both parents were then laid off from their jobs and now the home is being foreclosed.
Downey said Wells Fargo notified her parents this summer that they had to pay $27,000 in interest up front after they fell behind on payments. They couldn’t pay, she said.
Downey is still a minor so she was forced to drop out of school after her parent’s credit score was denied.
“I would have been a junior this year and graduated at [the age of] 19,” Downey said. “Now I have to transfer somewhere where I can get financial aid.”
University graduate and friend of Downey, Anya Svanoe was one of the organizers of the protest. She said she got involved because she wanted to do what she could instead of complaining about problems.
“To have the actual decision maker, the CEO, here, we knew this was an opportunity we didn’t want to miss,” Svanoe said.
On Oct. 14, Svanoe also helped organize a 600-person march from Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis to the Wells Fargo Center.
“We actually shut it down on Friday, on pay day,” she said. “We need to bring their decisions to their front doorsteps so that they can see what the people have to deal with. It’s about building pressure on decision makers.”
Whelan said protests at banks and bank branches will continue.
“I think it’s exciting that students are coming together with people from a variety of other parts of the community. It’s a powerful partnership that will probably continue,” he said.