In a move that could mark a new stage for the local Occupy movement, organizers have teamed up with Latino immigration activists for a march and rally on Friday that seeks to broaden the local protest against income inequality.
"In a way, what we're trying to do is to build stronger ties to our community and a broader section of our community," said Carl Patrick, an Occupy Santa Rosa organizer.
Friday's Occupy protest, which begins in Roseland and ends at Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa, once again targets Wells Fargo Bank. This time, organizers are focusing on the bank's alleged ties to two large private companies that operate correctional facilities and detention centers used to house immigration detainees and other types of inmates.
The groups that have joined Occupy Santa Rosa for the rally include organizers with the Graton Day Labor Center, The DREAM Alliance of Sonoma County, MEChA of Santa Rosa Junior College and Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County.
Jesus Guzman, who is active in the DREAM Alliance's push for federal legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for students who are in the country illegally, said it was only a matter of time before the goals of Occupy protesters and immigration activists converged.
Financial giants such as Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo have been recent targets in the ongoing backlash against Wall Street and the nation's growing income inequality.
For their part, immigration activists say that Wells Fargo is heavily invested in both the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, which operate correctional facilities and detention centers.
"What we really want to do is hold these folks accountable for what they're doing," said Guzman.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Holly Rockwood strongly rejected these claims as "misinformation." Rockwood said that Wells Fargo "does not own any shares of the GEO Group or CCA, nor have we invested our assets in those companies."
She said that Wells Fargo & Company, through its Wells Fargo Advantage Funds, administers mutual funds as a trustee on behalf of fund shareholders.
"Wells Fargo is not the owner," Rockwood said in an email statement. "Public filings and website listings can give the incorrect impression that Wells Fargo is an owner of a company's stock. We are not. We simply hold the funds as Trustee on behalf of the actual owners."
Rockwood said Wells Fargo does not deny access to assets of "deported customers" or provide law enforcement or government access to customers' personal or financial information, except when required by state or federal law.
Patrick said that even if Wells Fargo does not own stock in companies that run immigration detention centers, it is still a willing partner.
"It matters only in the sense that it changes what we're going to have to ask of them," he said, adding that Wells Fargo must take responsibility for its role in "facilitation of investments in these companies."
Patrick said the action Friday is part of the evolution of the Occupy Santa Rosa movement, beyond its initial "camping" strategy. It is an attempt by organizers to gain broader support in Sonoma County.
"We're evolving now," he said. "Looking for ways to include more people."
The rally will begin at noon Friday at the former Albertsons shopping center in Roseland. Over the years, the site has hosted countless immigration and May Day rallies, as well as the hugely successful Cinco de Mayo festival.
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