National

Thousands on Wall St. protest banks, bailout

NEW YORK — Thousands of workers and union leaders marched on Wall Street on Thursday to express their anger over lost jobs, the taxpayer-funded bailout of financial institutions and questionable lending practices by big banks.

The rally was organized by the AFL-CIO and an association of community groups. It included a diverse mixture of union workers, activists, the unemployed, and homeowners threatened by foreclosure.

"These guys are like pirates," said small-business owner Karen Casamassima of New York, who called for "economic patriotism" and held up a jewel encrusted skull with the words, "Financial Terrorists."

The protesters, carrying signs saying "Wall Street Overdrafted Our Economy" and "Reclaim America," rallied at City Hall Park then marched down to the Merrill Lynch bull statue demanding good jobs and accountability from banks.

"I think Wall Street is responsible for the collapse of our economy," said Bennett Silverstein, an attorney from Brooklyn who said his savings were depleted by the recession.

Earlier in the day, noisy protesters with signs took over two bank building lobbies on Manhattan's Park Avenue in a prelude to the rally.

More than 100 people entered a midtown building housing JPMorgan Chase offices. They handed a bank executive a letter requesting a meeting with the CEO, and chanted "Bust up big banks!" and "People power!"

A half-hour later, they were escorted outside by officers, who remained expressionless as the protesters chanted, "The police need a raise."

They then walked a few blocks up the avenue and crowded into the lobby of the Seagram Building, where Wells Fargo and Wachovia, the bank it merged with in 2008, have offices.

"We're here today to stop the corporate greed that is ruining our neighborhoods," said Andrea Goldman, 59, of Springfield, Mass., who's part of a group called Alliance to Develop Power.

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