Occupy Wall Street protesters held their biggest march so far this year today as part of a nationwide “Shut Down the Corporations” day of action.
Several hundred occupiers gathered in Bryant Park this morning before marching east on 42nd Street to the global headquarters of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, targeted because the company is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
When the marchers returned to Bryant Park, Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi delivered a lecture explaining the origins of the mortgage crisis and the role played by Bank of America.
Taibbi said the financial industry sowed the seeds for the economic crisis when it began repackaging high-risk mortgages into triple-A-rated mortgage-backed securities.
“That’s what these guys did,” Taibbi said. “They turned a bunch of oregano into high-grade weed and they sold it all around the world.”
Compounding the crisis, of course, were the credit default swaps major banks bought, essentially betting that the toxic derivatives they were selling would fail.
“It’s sort of like selling a lot full of cars with no brakes and then buying life insurance on all the drivers,” Taibbi said.
All the major financial institutions are implicated in these shady dealings, Taibbi said, but Bank of America is the worst. “They’re like a Zelig of the white-collar crime era,” he said. “They’re involved in everything.”
Taibbi called for criminal investigation into Bank of America’s behavior, and an end to federal support for the institution. “We’ve got to put pressure on our elected officials to disallow any further state support of Bank of America,” he said.
Given Bank of America’s precarious financial situation, cutting off the taxpayer support could bring the bank crashing down, Taibbi said. “We have to figure out a way to unwind these corrupt companies in a way that doesn’t destroy the rest of us.”
The rest of the day’s action was typical Occupy Wall Street fare: hundreds of protesters streaming through the streets, chased and herded by police on scooters and on foot attempted to divert and break up the demonstration.
A heavy police presence and metal barricades kept the occupiers away from the Bank of America tower across the intersection from Bryant Park, so instead they visited Bank of America retail branches throughout the neighborhood. The branches closed their doors when the protesters drew near, and police rushed to put themselves between the banks and the march.
At one point, a member of the OWS Direct Action working group expressed frustration at the disorganization of the march. “But it’s okay,” she said. “We’re learning for May 1st.”