Activists target Bank of America branch in Oak Park

Published: Sunday, Jul. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013 - 9:20 am

Sacramento activists protesting Bank of America's foreclosure practices said they got into a confrontation with bank personnel at the Oak Park branch Saturday, effectively closing the location for more than an hour.

About 20 members of Occupy Sacramento and other groups waged the protest in front of the 3810 Broadway location, saying they wanted to deliver a letter to bank executives complaining about BofA's foreclosure activities.

They were denied entrance and the bank locked its doors to customers and protesters alike for at least 90 minutes, said protester Lisa Wuriu.

"We were trying to spotlight basically criminal behavior that Bank of America has engaged in," said Wuriu, an Occupy Sacramento member.

Several large national banks have come under fire in recent months for allegedly rushing into foreclosures and violating terms of a year-old, $25 billion multistate settlement over mortgage abuses.

A court-appointed monitor last month said BofA, Wells Fargo and several other banks have been slow to respond to borrowers' requests for loan modifications. New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, has sued HSBC Bank over the alleged irregularities and has threatened to sue several other banks as well. BofA has come in for some of the harshest criticism. Former employees, testifying in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston, said in court papers last month that they were given cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas tied to putting homeowners into foreclosure.

The bank has denied the allegations about the bonuses and has said it is working diligently to help borrowers avoid foreclosure. In May it reported that it has helped 366,000 customers who have sought assistance under the multistate settlement.

In Sacramento, Wuriu said the protesters targeted BofA's Oak Park branch because "there have been an awful lot of foreclosures" in that neighborhood.

Protesters gathered outside the front entrance at around 10:45 a.m., bearing a letter that they wanted to have forwarded to senior bank executives. Wuriu said bank personnel wouldn't let the protesters inside and locked the doors about 15 minutes after the activists arrived. No customers were let in, either, according to Wuriu.

BofA spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens, in a written statement, said, "As is the case with any disruptive situation, a manager may decide to close the banking center temporarily if they determine protest activity to be a threat to the safety and security of our customers and employees."

Wuriu said the protesters left about a half hour before the branch was due to close for the day at 1 p.m. Sacramento police said they were called to the scene shortly before 11 a.m. after hearing reports of an altercation. But the scene was peaceful when officers arrived, and no arrests were made.

Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

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