Immigrant activist groups protest Wells Fargo and its investment in private prisons (PHOTOS)
Many people Wells Fargo claims to serve gathered to protest its investment in private prison companies such as GEO, Inc., which owns an Aurora detention center. Protesters marched on an East Colfax branch as part of a national day of action to educate people about the hypocrisy they see in the company claiming to be a community bank while investing in an industry they see as hurting families.
"Wells Fargo invests a lot of money in marketing to the Latino communities," says Nicole Melaku, spokeswoman for Rights for All People (RAP), an organization dedicated to providing equality and justice for immigrants. "But the investment in the GEO Group has all sorts of conflicts of values for a company that prides itself on integrity."
RAP was joined by the Colorado Progressive Coalition, Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, Metro Organizations for People, Padres y Jovenes Unidos and Politically Active Ztudents in organizing the protest. Protesters began by sharing their experiences with Wells Fargo. Jeanette Vizguerra, who is battling her own immigration case, spoke with anger about how the business she owned had accounts with Well Fargo. Another woman held back tears as she talked about sending money through Wells Fargo to her son who had been deported. She referred to Wells Fargo as a mafia.
A crowd gathers.
Several protesters pledged to terminate their accounts with Wells Fargo and the organizing groups were seeking a meeting with the branch president.
According to Yahoo! Finance, Wells Fargo is the third largest industrial shareholder in GEO, Inc., which RAP claims made $1.7 billion last year incarcerating people.
Cristie Drumm, spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, says there is a misunderstanding about the bank's affiliation with GEO, Inc.
Protesters on the way to Wells Fargo.
"We respect the seriousness of the ongoing debate of immigration reform and understand the group at our branch today is very passionate," she says. "We have not purchased any shares in GEO as Wells Fargo and Company. Some mutual fund investments have been made on behalf of our clients. Wells Fargo and Company doesn't own any stock in the GEO group."
Drumm also downplays the dual message from the bank about its dedication to the community.
"We're certainly committed to serving our customers and we understand the importance of this issue to our country and in particular, this group," she says of the protesters.
The groups that organized outside the bank will not change their aspirations.
"The ultimate goal of the protest is Wells Fargo divesting from GEO group," says Melaku. "We want Wells Fargo to stand by their value of community and integrity and stop investing in an industry that tears families apart."
The organizing groups hope that if their signs, marching and chanting don't motivate change, the loss of business for Wells Fargo will.
Jeanette Vizguerra speaks about her struggle.
"They should get the message, they are smart people," says Mario Rodriguez, a salesman and member of RAP. "They have interest in our community. They know they want our community as members and clients. I hope they change their mind about doing what they are doing and the ways they are spending their money -- our money."
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