Earlier today we wrote of what appeared to be an Occupy Wall Street-related bank boycott planned for November 5th. We’ve spoken to Kristen Christian, the 27-year-old creator of the event, who has clarified some things. For one, it’s not an Occupy Wall Street-organized event, though members of the Occupied movement support the idea and are planning to join in. Further, it’s not an effort based in anarchy, or an event that Christian hopes will cause an economic crisis (any more than the one we’re already in). “It’s not people taking their money and burying it under their mattress. It’s shifting the money to a company people respect the practices of. It’s like, if you don’t like Wal-Mart’s practices, shopping at a local grocery store instead.” More from Christian on Bank Transfer Day, after the jump.
What’s the relationship between Bank Transfer Day and Occupy Wall Street?
It’s not being organized by Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street is supporting it — every branch I’ve connected with has been amazingly supportive of the concept and a single person standing up and saying “I’m done.” [ed: Patrick Bruner of Occupy Wall Street tells us, “I believe that we will most likely choose to join in, but as of now
cannot say for certain.”]
Have you spoken to Occupy Wall Street?
I’ve been in contact with members from Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, where I live… some of them have been taking it upon themselves to post on their Facebook pages and websites. But this is literally a private citizen who had enough. In terms of what you are going to accomplish with a sign, standing on the sidewalk — you can’t just sit in a public street until you get your way. This is taking direct action, saying OK, we’ve had enough. I think that’s why we’ve garnered so most support.
The Facebook page for the event has only been up for three days?
It was literally, as of 2 p.m. today, 3 days. There are now 8,794 people attending.
Do you bank at one of the big banks?
I do currently bank at Bank of America, both personally and for my business, and I am waiting until the 4th to pull out my money. I’ve been told that because it’s a business account, I won’t be able to do it online, so I have to do it on the 4th in person.
Why did you decide to do this?
Mostly just, I was tired. I was tired of being charged bank fee after bank fee after bank fee. If their site is down, if I call in, I get a 2 dollar charge. That’s not my fault. When they decided to react so negatively to the Durbin Amendment, that made me sick.
Another example: I took my mother to a Mother’s Day brunch, and she had to pay because the bank decided to freeze my funds. It took nearly three days to give me access again. They said it was frozen for suspicious activity, but they made no attempt to contact me, they just froze my funds. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the info that the banks had made donations to the NYPD prior to the police abusing Occupy Wall Street protesters. I believe it was Chase, but regardless, their behaviors are all so similar, it was sickening. The bank was using money they made off me and my funds to give the NYPD money to abuse people I see as my brothers and sisters.
So it started as a small movement — the initial invite was to 500 people — and then it started going to the Occupied Facebook walls.
It looks like it’s been sent to some 60,000 people.
I’ve recommended to supporters that Facebook doesn’t have the capacity to handle the amount of pending invites, plus people don’t often check their Facebook events. They do check their newsfeed and friends’ walls, so I’m recommending that people post to their timeline, post to the wall of their local occupation movement, and there are flyers available for printing on the Facebook page.
It’s amazing how far the movement has gone with the people. People are spreading the word on their own; in my hometown, at the local farmer’s market, many are posting flyers on display at their stands, and there’s also an effort to put likenesses of the flyers on big rigs and drive down the highway, so everyone will get the message.
Have you been involved in the Occupied L.A. movement?
I haven’t been able to get there as much as I would have liked, but I will be at the General Assembly on Saturday.
What’s your business?
I own an independent art gallery called Le Spec. The gallery does everything I think we should expect from banks. I work with local artists. With commissions, one of the models was never going over a 45% commission so an artist receives the majority of the retail price of the artwork.
Do you consider yourself one of the 99 percent?
Definitely. I think that every person you and I will ever speak to is one of the 99 percent. We’ll never have direct contact with the 1 percent.
Have you been surprised by the public response to Bank Transfer Day?
I’ve been absolutely in awe of the response. I got a call at 3 a.m. from a good friend saying “we hit 6,000” — every time I see the number go up it just warms my heart. I knew a lone person standing up and saying, “I’m taking my money out of your accounts,” that’s a cricket chirp. Having 8,000 people stand up, that’s definitely a chorus that will be hard for them to ignore.
Is the date, November 5, significant?
I picked the 5th because I hope this will give a new name to the 5th of November — not as a failed terrorist attack but as Americans standing up and saying we’ve had enough.
Have you found your credit union?
I’m currently speaking with First Entertainment Credit Union, in L.A. They do incredible work, and are accessible through 7/11 ATMs. I am exploring my options. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that any services a big bank can provide can be provided by smaller companies that are not acting the way the banks have.
Will you ever go back to a big bank?
Absolutely not. The model for the ways they’ve done business is a thing of the past, and they really need to rework their system and look at not just how they’ve treated their customers but also how they treat and invest in their community.
There’s an artist in California who’s been painting Chase banks on fire. Have you seen his work?
Yes, I posted two of Alex Schaefer’s images on the event page. I was very inspired by the article I read about him. He was questioned by the police on whether he really wanted to burn banks!
I’ve been very careful to state that this is not about bringing down the Fed, it’s not anarchy. We’ve gotten quite a few people saying this will cause an economic collapse. Yeah, we may be out the money we gave the banks for the bailout, but it’s not people taking their money and burying it under their mattress. It’s shifting the money to a company people respect the practices of. It’s like, if you don’t like Wal-Mart’s practices, shopping at a local grocery store instead.
This is not an act of terrorism or treason, it’s a boycott. It’s as simple as that.