I for the most part have been living at Los Angeles City Hall for the past week. I am part of a movement that is world-wide, starting with the Occupation of Wall Street. The number of occupations worldwide have now surpassed four digits; the amount of people who have take action is amazing. Many are Occupying full-time, and that means we LIVE at the occupation we are camping there.
I decided that I wanted to take part in this movement well before I knew about the Los Angeles Occupation began, as I have been watching what has been going on in NY. Many times we joked before about the Bull on Wall Street, and how we would like to drag him down by his big bronze balls.
Having grown up near Wall St, I knew people who work in that district and I am also familiar with the variety of problems in the area: trade fraud, ponzi schemes, insider trading, cooperate takeovers, bank bailouts that only went to billionaires, and all the other corruption, all linked to a very small group of people.
This is something I have been looking for forever, I have for years passionately spoken to friends and family about how this corrupt corporate based banking system is destroying people’s lives. But it is not just the banks, the banks and corporations are private and are own by the same people. We have gotten to the point where this world is getting bought over in all capacities. The people have been paying, and paying, and paying some more. To whom? And Why? Why have we allowed our planet to be taken over by a select group of rich, and let them tell us what we can and cannot do? We have allowed them to use fear tactics to take away our money, homes, and lives. It has become a reality that the poor have gotten poorer and the rich do not care.
Honestly I can ramble forever about all the trickle down injustices this causes, making people feel divided, and that is where the Occupation is beginning to change things. The occupation is bringing together people all over the world. We have a common bond, we are all human and wish to be treated as so. Many different people have many different reasons to join the occupation, many are unemployed and underemployed, lost their homes, and the bottom line just want change.
This is my story, and why I want change:
When I was 11, I was told we had to move from the house I had grown up in, in Ulster County NY. A sherif came to our house and gave us a 30 day notice. This gave my grandmother a heart attack, and sent the family into a panic on how we were going to find somewhere to move my grandparents, myself and my grandfathers sister who lived with us in a month. They were all retired at this point, and I was a child, so the income situation was already tight. Plus they had owned this home since 1968. My grandmother handled the business decisions for our home, as my grandfather was illiterate. She also did not have much education and made rather bad choices in the financial end. She had remorgaged the home in my grandfathers brothers name, I am really not sure why, as I was 11, and not really hip as to what was up with money matters. I knew as I got older she owed everyone in money and they were way in debt.
The house payment was $375 a month back then. She had been late with payments multiple times, and I guess this was the last straw, they foreclosed on the house. She hid this from the family. She said later she didn’t think they would really take the house away as she had already paid for it once in full. I don’t think she really ever understood what she did by taking out that mortgage.
To me personally the banks have been really horrible. I couldn’t get any student loans for school, I have never qualified for a credit card, at one time the state of NY had a claim that they want me to pay back the money they gave my grandmother to raise me, as they had tried to force my mother, but since she was on welfare, they wanted the money back from me? That is what the financial aid officer told me. She said I had this on my credit, which was bizarre. I had no co-signers, so no loans. As far as financial aid, I only qualified for the lowest amount as my mother was collecting state assistance in NY. I got a check at the beginning of the semester, and asked, is this the money for this semester or for a whole year, and was told, no next semester you reapply this is for now. My classes and books came to about $2000 for the semester in total. I got 1300, I think from the state, and the rest I paid for. My books were outrageous. I started class and was also working full-time to survive. 9/11 happened, yet I was in another, state, and was at school and could not come home, I worked for Iranians as the night manager for a pizza shop, and shortly after we closed due to them being terrorized because they were Arabs. Losing that job meant my life was made harder, I had 4 more weeks of school, but my rent was paid. I came home from school two weeks into the month, there was a note on the door, that said :Had an emergency went back home, sorry had to arm the system, you cannot get in, I will give you a code when I get back. Everything I owned was locked in the house, and he did not come back for almost a month. He was manic-depressive, and came back and threw my stuff out, then called me. I never finished the semester, as I had moved far away.
I also had an issue where there was a false charge on an account I had with M&T, where I spent 8.10 and then was charged 81.10 instead. I had about $60 in the bank, so for $8 I should have been ok. I had also deposited my paycheck and my rent money and my tips from work. This was over $1000. Monday came around, and I went to use my debit card for something and they said I couldn’t use it… I was rather confused so when I got home I looked at my bank account online, and saw not only the false charge, but that they had processed every payment I usually pay in a month all at once, and put them through multiple times each that day, charging me $30 each time as well. My paycheck did not clear yet, which was odd. So Tuesday I call the bank, tell them whats up, and they give me a super hard time on the phone. I also tell them that the address of where it says I spent the money was not right as I was not in Harlem, as the 81.10 charge has said, I was on the upper west side of Manhattan when I used it. They begrudging said they would start an investigation. I look at my account that day again, and they still have frozen it, and it continues to ask for payments multiple times, and charge the fee, it seemed crazy, I was negative more than what I had already deposited, so when my paycheck hit, it cleared, they stole it in bank fees, and said I still owe them $300. Within the week I got a letter from the bank, I figured it was from the investigation. Nope it was from COLLECTIONS! My room-mate was confused as well as she had listened to the whole ordeal I had on the phone the week before.I took it to the bank, they told me I had to call the guy listed on the form in Buffalo (7-8 hrs away) so I did. I called about 1,000 times over a 2 week period. I was never able to leave a message as the voice mail was perpetually full. I called the main bank office, and they told me that if I couldn’t get a hold of him to come to buffalo to fix it. Really? So they also put a hold on my SSN so now I can’t open an account without paying a lot of money, or having a lot of money.
My mother also went through an ordeal with M&T bank. She won a lawsuit from when she broke her arm. The cute, fast talking new bankster guy at the bank, talked her into putting 50,000 into an account to mature. He told her all kinds of nonsense about how great this was, and how she would earn at least $20 a day in interest, and all kinds of other fairy tales. She jumped right into this and signed. When she brought that document home, I read it, and told her I was pretty shocked she put her money into an account that she could not touch for 7 years. She didn’t know that. She also didn’t know that it had a flexible interest rate on the type of account she had chosen. So she didn’t protest not knowing any of this, she just left the money there. 5 years later, she’s broke, needs money, and wants to just take a penalty and take her cash out, she needs here money now. The account has only made a few dollars in 5 years, and she was pissed. So they ended up giving her only 13,000 after the penalty! YES YOU GOT THAT RIGHT THE BANK TOOK $37,000 IN PENALTIES!
All this to my family, and also watching the property developers turn the Hudson valleys rolling farmland into Mc-mansions that drove up everyone’s property values, for the market to bottom out, and made a lot of people lose their homes. Also many smaller banking institutions in my area were bought over by the bigger banks, and many people lost jobs, or their hours were cut. The economy where I am from has decreased significantly, the local shop owners being pushed out by new corporate stores. Wal-mart treating employees like garbage, as well as all of the bigger box stores that employ many people from my area. The real estate and contracting industries are now quiet, and because of all this people are becoming displaced.
This is not a local problem though, it is a global crisis, impacted by many different elements. The lack of transparency, the amount of monopoly, has become a major problem in the world. The world bank has destroyed currencies all over, and the majority are the ones being hurt by this. They are manipulating our money in so many ways, and it is a constant battle to keep up with what tactic is going to used next.
This is why we must come together for change, make the banking industry accountable for bad practices, and stop taking money from the people to put in billionaire pockets. I have been talking about this for years, and explaining to my fellow people that by privatizing money, it has created a serious problem, considering most of the entities tied to controlling our money are the very same people. The top 1% has been allowed to control the rest for too long with financial manipulation. We must work together to change what we do not like, and force change by being active civicly in the local, state, country and world level.
In this movement I see the potential for a lot of good things, and I think if we get involved more, and work to educate each other, and try to touch base across the planet, we the 99% can create a solution. I just hope we can help other cities, work on resolutions for accountability of banking, like the one Los Angeles has. The city council, mayor, and LAPD have been amazingly supportive, as they know they are also in the 99%.
And so far during my occupation, I have met many people from many walks of life, I have reached out to other occupations, and occupiers around the world, and every day more and more people join. This is a peaceful movement, which inspires many to promote this change we so desperately need.
So I make the call to you readers, unemployed and under employed, if you can take part and join in your local occupation, do so, they will embrace you, as we are all in the 99%!