Occupy Santa Rosa protesters are planning to picket large corporate banks downtown Saturday in an effort to convince customers to move their money to locally-based financial institutions.
Organizers say the day-long event, held in solidarity with what's being billed nationwide as Bank Transfer Day, will be a peaceful attempt to draw attention to the abuses of big banks.
"This Saturday we stand up against the banks that gambled with our money, crashed our economy and made us pay the price," organizer Carl Patrick wrote in an email to supporters.
Patrick, a 24-year-old Petaluma native, said the day represents something of a change in tactics for the group. For the first time, Occupy Santa Rosa protesters are targeting individual businesses.
"It'll probably be noisy and that could inadvertently interrupt their normal flow of business," Patrick said.
Bank of America, Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo will be targeted for picketing. People who have lost their homes to foreclosure are expected to speak to the crowd in front of the banks, Patrick said.
He expects at least as many people as last week's protest, which police estimated drew about 700 people. He stressed that he does not expect protesters to try to block access to the buildings.
The first three banks close at 2 p.m., after which the group is calling for a "massive" protest in front of Wells Fargo on B Street until it closes at 6 p.m.
The downtown branches of the nation's four biggest banks say they are slated to open their doors as usual.
Police have been in communication with the branches to pass along information they have about the protests. Extra officers will be on duty just as in past marches, all of which have been peaceful.
Chief Tom Schwedhelm said he and other city officials are closely monitoring the situation and sharing information. He wouldn't say whether police will clear sidewalks or try to prevent protesters from disrupting business operations at the banks, saying that will be up to officers and managers on the ground Saturday.
"Our officers are very professional, and the community knows that," Schwedhelm said.
James Richardson, who helps Occupy Santa Rosa with communications, said he doesn't expect problems like those in the recent Oakland protests because Santa Rosa isn't home to the kinds of "insurrectionist anarchists" who were responsible for the vandalism there.
Will Kelly, who helps with security at the City Hall encampment, stressed the day will be "lawful and peaceful" and anyone doing anything otherwise "does not represent us."
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