Occupy protesters close bank accounts, march to the Drag

Nick Hadjigeorge

Occupy Austin protesters marched from the Capitol to the corner of 24th Street and Guadalupe Street on Saturday to express their opposition of banks that received bailout funds and to celebrate the restrictions lifted from protesters on Capitol grounds.

The group of about 75 people, escorted by police, protested in the “December 3rd: Be Heard” march in front of the Chase and Wells Fargo banks on Guadalupe Street and gave their support for the University Federal Credit Union on the wet Saturday afternoon.

Protester Dave Cortez said two people closed their bank accounts on Saturday and approximately $500,200 has been withdrawn from major banks in Austin since the movement began their bank action efforts.

Protester Ihor Gowda said the group was happy to march regardless of the rain because of the new state policy that allows protesters to have 24-hour access to the Capitol grounds.

“We don’t know what made them change their policy,” Gowada said. “It’s kind of mysterious, but I think they are trying to avoid the legal implications of a lawsuit challenging their old three hour policy.”

English graduate student and protester Trevor Hoag said Saturday’s march adjacent to the University increases the visibility of the movement, but he is disappointed with UT’s overall response to the Occupy Austin protests.

“It’s frustrating for me to see thousands of students at other schools protesting with Occupy but not at UT,” Hoag said.

Hoag said Occupy UT will attract more participants when students learn more about the group after they host more events in the future.

“If students know more about what they can do, then they will get more involved,” Hoag said. “It’s not about anyone’s particular ideology, and we invite everyone to participate because these issues affect us all.”

Protester Jamie Tilley said the public reaction to the march was extremely supportive.

“People gave us a lot of peace signs and horn honks,” Tilley said. “In the past we’ve had some negative reactions, but today there was pure support.”

Bryan Gellerup, a protester who closed his Chase bank account during the march, said the clerks were friendly until he told them why he wanted to close his account.

“I said they were an evil corporation,” Gellerup said. “I told them I disagreed with their banking practices, and that’s when they kind of got short with me.”

Gellerup said he was happy to participate in a march so close to the University because it offers increased exposure for Occupy Austin.

“More people will hear about it and see what is happening even if it is raining,” Gellerup said. “We are gaining a lot of attention, which is increasing public support for our issues.”

Economics graduate student Benny Sperisen said he isn’t certain what the movement’s goals are and thinks the march is just a way for people to vent their anger.

“I don’t know if they have produced a set of demands for politicians,” Sperisen said. “I just think this march is an expression of anger about how things are going right now in the country.”

Printed on Monday, December 5th, 2011 as: Occupy Austin marches in opposition to big banks