Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Matthew Munoz, Staff Writer
K College senior Dana Iscoe walked into the West Michigan Avenue branch of Bank of America and made a sizeable withdrawal last Tuesday, May 15—the withdrawal of all of her money.
Iscoe joined members of the Occupy Kalamazoo movement in transferring her money from the megabank to local credit unions in light of what she considers “unfair lending practices.”
The lending practices with which Iscoe and others took issue centered largely on Bank of America’s early refusal of principle reduction–the reduction of outstanding loan balances–to homeowners caught in the recent housing fiasco.
“Sometimes people pay more in interest than their home is worth,” said Iscoe. “I wanted to take my money out of the worst bank in the country and move it to a community credit union.”
Fellow K College student Darwin Rodriguez (K’13) joined Iscoe and two community members in what marked the beginning of a week-long protest in front of the West Michigan location.
The bank, which had been hesitant to reduce mortgage debt, began offering principal reduction this month to 200,000 borrowers as part of a settlement with the Federal Government for fraudulent foreclosures, according to an article by the Huffington Post. Despite the settlement, Iscoe and the others who withdrew their money were not satisfied.
“I think the high interest rates themselves are criminal,” said Iscoe. “People should not have to sue their banks to get treated fairly.”
Dozens of people turned out for the march, which originated at Bronson Park. Some remained in front of the bank to camp on the sidewalk, spreading their message to passersby with large signs, according to Occupy Kalamazoo member Benjamin Ayers.
According to Ayers different community organizations, including the Michigan Organizing Project and We Are the People, came together as part of the protest along with several concerned community members.
“People are realizing their personal power,” said Ayers. “This is not a single issue campaign about Bank of America receiving dollars from taxpayer bailouts and foreclosing on our homes.”
K College Junior and active Michigan Organizing Project member Alexandra VanHeest (K’13) echoed Ayers idea about the movement. She worked in the hours preceding the protest, reaching out to K students who had their money in the bank.
“It is a grassroots movement which I think is really special,” said VanHeest. “It’s really rewarding to step off campus and do something in the community.”
VanHeest talked about the sizable relationship between K College students and large banks, and Iscoe cited PNC’s presence at first-year orientation as an early problem.
“It’s really predatory. It’s another example of how banks are taking advantage of people,” said Iscoe. She called for a greater range of options for students. “The school should also have credit unions come in the beginning,” she said.
The Occupy group’s next protest will take place in front of the Michigan Avenue PNC Bank on Jun 1. Protesters will speak out against mountain top removal, says Ayers. He and Iscoe both called on students to look into their bank’s spending practices and to take a stand.
“It’s the start of something and the continuation of something even bigger,” said Iscoe. Ayers extended Iscoe’s message saying: “The issues we are facing as Kalamazoo, a nation and a world cannot be solved by individuals.”