Bank's offer to fund vandalism repairs draws activist backlash

Thousands of protesters demonstrated outside Wells Fargo's April 26 annual shareholders' meeting.
Yael Chanoff

After young anarchists vandalized cars and businesses during a brief but destructive rampage through the Mission District last week, Wells Fargo was quick to offer $25,000 in grants to repair the damage, which the bank publicized in a press release as “building upon its history of supporting local communities.”

Yet this is the same Wells Fargo that has been targeted by housing rights, labor, and other progressive activists in recent months for its aggressive foreclosure tactics and investments in mountaintop removal coal mining and other heinous activities, culminating in a major standoff between protesters and the company during its annual shareholders meeting in San Francisco on April 24.

The grant money was supposed to be administered mostly by the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, but the group got an earful from activists during its meeting on Monday night and now its leaders are figuring out how they can extricate themselves from this thorny situation. Among those putting pressure on the group is Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, who says the bank is trying to buy allies that it desperately needs right now.

"Wells is trying to divide a wedge between activists who have been working to highlight their irresponsible practices in the community and the businesses we shop at,” Shortt told us. "As a Valencia Street resident, I resent that they are hoping to use my community merchants as a tool for them to gain positive PR, by taking advantage of their desperation after the attacks.”

Bank spokesperson Holly Rockwood emphasized Wells Fargo's “long history of corporate philanthropy” when I asked her about the donation, and she denied that the corporation was trying to burnish its tarnished image less than week after thousands of activists disrupted the bank's annual meeting, resulting in 20 arrests. “The timing was simply in response to the wave of vandalism,” Rockwood said.

Nonetheless, merchants association President Deena Davenport said the group is now “backing away from this” to avoid getting in the middle of this fight. “The people with the Housing Rights Committee gave us a lot of good reasons why shouldn't accept this money,” she said, adding that the association will make a final decision at its meeting this Monday.

While she said that she appreciates the bank's offer and doesn't begrudge anyone who wants to accept the money, “we are looking at ways to raise the money ourselves,” including reaching out to local credit unions to see if they would match the Wells Fargo offer, making the same money available but without the heavy political baggage.


third-party entity. I personally think it is noble for Wells Fargo to step in with this generosity. And we should remember that Wells Fargo managed their mortgage book very prudently, and were one of the banks that you really cannot blame for the sub-prime mortgage mess - they didn't securitize their loans and mostly lended prudently.

They got a bad press because they were forced into a shotgun marriage with Wachovia, which was much less prudent. But Occupy really should do their homework before tarring all banks with the same brush.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

you sounds like a wells fargo drone. THINK FOR YOURSELF. LOOK AT THE FACTS.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:09 am

crime, while Occupy is unwilling to. Seems reasonable to most thinking folks.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:14 am

please read this first-person eye-witness account about the night in question, then re-examined WF's attempt at paying off the businesses, then see what you think...what makes sense, on a critical-thinking level, not on a "what the media told me" level

if we are really engaged in a psychological warfare where the government and corps alike hire highly trained publicists to churn out propaganda, why wouldn't they try these tactics? if you believe that WF is a home-town hero and that activists are bad, then WF tactics are working.

Posted by Jean on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:27 am

Where is your hard evidence these were infiltrators?

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:40 am

the "hard evidence" is a first-person eye witness account. similar evidence is held up in a court of law

Posted by Jean on May. 11, 2012 @ 11:56 am

then I'm afraid that your "friend of a friend" story is just that - a fable that serves your prejudice.

Your idea that the FBI is employing large numbers of federal agents to simulate SF protestors is, frankly, vacuous and tenuous.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

The FBI routinely employs agent provocateurs to try and entrap people into committing crimes. Look at the recent arrest of the four Anarchists trying to blow up the bridge in Ohio.

I will share with you my own story. When I was in college, the Rodney King riots were happening. At the dorm I was in, we were watching LA burn the first night and I was arguing that this was a good thing and that this would finally wake some people up. A large, well built black gentleman, who did not live in our dorm, starting talking to me and pulled aside and asking me if I would go with him and help set up a trap to injure some police officers. I told him that I was not into that kind of thing.

A few weeks later, I saw him at the grocery store and was surprised to see him wearing a suit. He had been dressed in raggedy clothing the night he talked to me. So I followed him to his car. He got into a expensive SUV with a police department sticker in the window. I am not sure if he was a cop or not, but it seems likely.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 8:58 am

Oh, so he was black? (Since you don't mention it, I guess we can assume you're the universal white.)

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

I'm guessing you were not unfamiliar with the bong in those days.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2012 @ 8:05 am

Wells has earned it's reputation by being a elader in the 12000 foreclosures of our neighbors since 2008, and our cities own auditor found 84 percent of these are illegal. People have broken trashed and windows--including in the mission--before occupy came along (like in 2005). The trashing simply was not organized by occupy sf folks.

a volunteer with occupy SF

Posted by occupy volunteer on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

That's what happens when you have an amorphous, "leaderless" organization - there's no one to hold responsible when things go to shit.

Anyway - all those small business owners were probably capitalist pigs so they really deserved what they got.

Posted by Troll II on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

last Fall that it would dwindle into insignificance. In that context, it's likely we will continue to see smaller and smaller numbers of protestors trying to compensate for the decline by acting more and more outrageously.

You can't change America by smashing cars and throwing bricks at people.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

mortgage if you could live in your home forever for free by not paying? The idea that foreclosures are wrong is infantile - in practice they are essential which is why every country on the planet does them.

And the mob that caused this vandalism clearly took their impetus from Occupy - an organization that has already sought to justify crime, violence and anti-social behavior to further its non-democratic ends.

The fact that there might have been troubnle before in the Mission does not excuse such appalling behavior.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

Your moralism about repayment would make sense if the banks were loaning people cold, hard cash that they actually had on hand. Banks have whittled down the amount of actual capital they have to have to make loans to pennies. So when you sign loan paperwork all you are doing is promising to pay them an amount they write down in their books. Voila! They created money out of thin air.

When you mess up a payment (or they say you did because their loan paperwork is in such disarray from being sold 5 times) they now get your very real house and your very real equity if you have built any up.

Not to mention banks also get to borrow from the Fed at near zero interest and then charge us a higher rate creating even more imaginary money for themselves. Oh yeah, and then there was the bailout which we are all pay for in taxes.

It's a pretty neat trick the banks have and yet you blame the poor working stiffs who've been tricked out of their wages?! I'd hate to have you as a parent,Cruella DeVille.

Posted by Sigmarlin on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

their entire loan book and asset base? Are you really that clueless about how banking works? And do you really think that's an excuse for defaulting on debt?

Tell me one place on the planet that works like that.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

Perhaps you should do your homework too "guest" before you start saying how wonderful Wells Fargo is for the community. They are being investigated by the Dept of Justice for discriminating predatory lending practices and I can give you a long list of people they have refused to negotiate faulty mortgage paperwork with.

I love how you also paint Occupy with one big brush and blame them for a small rogue group of either stupid kids and probably a mix of deliberate agent provocateurs. Who's to say that people who donated money to the Valencia st businesses are not also part of (or supportive ) of Occupy? I'm amazed by your omniscient knowledge of everyone's opinions and actions; I bow down before you, oh wise one.

Posted by Sigmarlin on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

all seizure of or damage to property that is not theirs, we'll talk. But as long as you keep breaking laws, you can expect no support from the general community.

There may well have been some technical breaches of protocol in Wells Fargo loan deals but if you pay your mortgage, you have nothing to fear from that. I have limtied sympathy for people who dont pay their bills and then try and hude behind techicalities to avoid taking accountibility for their failures.

And smashing up peoples' cars won't change that.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

There are a whole lot of 'yous' and 'wes' in your blather, omnipotent one. It's a little hard to follow you advice as to what "I" am supposed to do but thanks for offering your unsolicited opinion to everyone.

Assessor Ting found that 84% of mortgage paperwork is in violation yet you still blame the victim who's been turning over their paychecks to these crooks?:

Posted by Sigmarlin on May. 10, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

anyone from not paying their mortgage, nor does it justify violence and crime. Anyone who is currrent on their mortgage has nothing to fear.

If you want to divert all your energy to deadbeats, knock yourself out, but don't expect any support or sympathy.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

The dead beats are the banks. If the bank does not have clear title and deed to the home on which they claim to hold a mortgage, then centuries of property law were clear on what happened.

Until Obama and the Democrats gave the slipshod banksters another free pass, upending centuries of real estate law.

But it is really terrible when someone breaks a window.

Posted by marcos on May. 10, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

Trying to get out of your responsibilities on a technicality is hardly a noble cause. Find a better one.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

does that mean that the person(s) who borrowed are let off the hook and don't owe anything? that makes no sense at all. it may be that the company foreclosing does not have clear title, but that does not mean the borrower does not still owe.

and people wonder why it is so hard to get loans for houses these days. get ready for it to get much harder still.

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

The destruction in the mission on A30 was not organized, planned, or in any way associated with any Occupy movement. It was joined by a good number of occupiers, students, union people, etc., acting autonomously, but the vast majority of those left the march (myself included) as soon as we saw what the real deal was with the "others." GuestonMay.10,2012@3:51pm, you ask us to not tar all the banks with the same brush while in the same breath you tar all of occupy by the actions of non-occupiers. Shame on you.

Posted by @michaelchaley on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

those who were determiend to cause trouble. It was the same in Oakland when an Occupy man murdered another, the same in SF when bricks were thrown at passers by and the same in the Mission.

If Occupy cannot excise all the criminals in its midsts, then expect the police to.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

Whether the window breaking is an occupy movement or not is really fuzzy and open for debate. The fact that the movement is leaderless would seem to mean that the people within the group who disavow this action have as much claim to speaking for the group as a whole as the window breakers.
Who, for that matter, are the occupy members? They don't exactly have a roster of dues paying members. What makes you an occupier? Self identification? Just showing up? I was there like, once, while it was still in front of the Fed, am I an occupier? You say that the actions on May day eve were the actions of individuals acting autonomously, but that could be said of any occupy action.
I feel bad that this movement got hijacked, but if a movement refuses to define itself with anything more than a vague and ill defined sense of loose ideals, than others may define it for you. I also like the idea of a leaderless movement where everybody's welcome, but I like lots of ideas that just won't work.

Posted by myklValentine on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:13 am

The destruction in the mission on A30 was not organized, planned, or in any way associated with any Occupy movement. It was joined by a good number of occupiers, students, union people, etc., acting autonomously, but the vast majority of those left the march (myself included) as soon as we saw what the real deal was with the "others." GuestonMay.10,2012@3:51pm, you ask us to not tar all the banks with the same brush while in the same breath you tar all of occupy by the actions of non-occupiers. Shame on you.

Posted by @michaelchaley on May. 10, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

wells fargo is trying to do a good deed to remedy the fact that the Occupy demonstrations consistently harbor vandalizers, and the organizers of these protests have not done a sufficient job preventing it.

so shaddup.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

An institution tries to help some SF residents who were victims of a crime but because those criminals were loosely (or not) associated with Occupy, Steven thinks that the money is tainted.

I've no idea what it must be like to wake up every morning with that much prejudice and hatred. And I don't want to know.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

How much money has the SFBG pledged to help out?

Posted by Dnative on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:16 am

look up agent provocateur and then start talking. eye witness accounts of the night in question report that cops were in their cars laughing while clean-cut aggressive men with crew cuts dressed in brand new all black clothing "led" the impromptu march. the real organizers of occupy-related actions were not planning a march.

Posted by Jean on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:18 am
Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:36 am

I read the "notes from an occupation" and I agree with the blogger's assessment. This bit was particularly telling:

"Isn’t it funny too, that for the last 6 months of sustained protests, we couldn’t fart sideways without riot police raising their truncheons against us anywhere in the Bay Area, yet these cops weren’t around tonight when the convergence in Dolores Park turned into a march. the 2 squad cars and van that were following us did so at a snail’s pace while the boojie restaurants on 18th street got vandalized. Some more police units on Valencia just let the protest pass, despite it’s obviously destructive intent, and the cops were driving past laughing as their cars were pelted with paint. The laughter is really what betrays something seriously wrong about tonight’s march. For six months, we’re beaten, harassed and arrested at the slightest provocation, park and public lodging rules enforced to the very last dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t’, but tonight, they let a pack of vandals run riot down Valencia street."

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 12:46 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

Be sure to point out at every opportunity that anything progressives say is evidence of "conspiracy" mind set. Got your talking points down? Good. I'd hate to see a troll who can think up something original to say.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

I am going to keep mocking the inanity of that.

When you're ready to join the real world, we'll talk.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

I suppose that when the FBI/ SFPD colluded to spy on leftist groups and individuals, you were posting here about an "imaginary conspiracy" dreamed up by progressives. The "real world" could hit you in the face and you wouldn't recognize it. Fortunately, the BoS's took it seriously enough to pass some recent legislation banning this type of surveillance. Meanwhile, you're out in la-la land, talking to yourself, kid.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

My GOD the crap that spews out of the mouths of the BG and the "activists" is AMAZING. People trash locally owned struggling businesses, someone offers to fix the damage ,then the people who did the damage cry and whine about how dare someone fix up their messes.

It's like having a pack of babies shit the bed, then get mad when someone cleans up the diapers.

Wonder how long the corporate owners of the guardian will allow this "journalism" to last? someone needs to get a new resume out to something like the Bay Citiz-OOPS they're out of business and said no earlier.


Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

This reads absolutely batshit crazy.

You pretty much summed it up, so no need to rehash. But seriously, if 95% of the population were to read this they would step away either confused or just pissed off. It's really that far out there.

These guys have been flailing for years, and it's hitting a new low these days, lol. Fun read though.

Posted by Sambo on May. 10, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

To be all high and mighty. Their small business didn't get trashed.

Honestly I don't get it. Wells Fargo for all their faults, tries do a good thing. Is there something in it for them? Sure. But there is also something in it for the small businesses. They are struggling as it is and them some idiots come along and trash their businesses for no good reason. I say let them take the money and leave them alone.

As for the big argument on foreclosures etc. Like most everything, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Did the banks take advantage of some customers and give them loans they probably shouldn't have? Sure. But there are also plenty of borrowers that took advantage oft eh banks. Some falsified or lied on their applications, others were just unlucky. Seriously, you lose your job etc, and stop paying your mortgage- what is the bank supposed to do? You took the risk of that when you signed the loan docs.

Foreclosures were going on long before the housing meltdown and are a needed part of the financial landscape. Saying banks should not do any foreclosures is just unrealistic and crazy.

Posted by Dnative on May. 10, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

From an eye witness who was actually present on the night in question:

"With that said, I didn’t recognize any of these people. Their eyes were too angry, their mouths were too severe. They felt “military” if that makes sense. Something just wasn’t right about them on too many levels. I’m not one of those tin foil hat conspiracy theorists, I don’t subscribe to those theories that Queen Elizabeth’s Reptilian slave driver masters run the Fed. I’ve read up on agent provocateurs and plants and that sort of thing and I have to say that without a doubt, I believe 100% that the people that started tonight’s events in the Mission were exactly that. "

Posted by Jean on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:23 am

and we should leap to that assumption?

There are "usual suspects" who come out to every protest looking for trouble. This was no different. It was Occupy's job to control their mob but of course they are too "leaderless" and unfocused" to bother.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 9:39 am

a counter-intelligence committee, people with experience in this area, to counteract this sort of thing. You will never win the game if you allow yourselves to be infiltrated and manipulated in this manner and whining about it is not going to help.

Movement of the left often rely on "hope" vs. hard and fast reaction and counter-reaction to check their opponents. That is a naive and failed strategy.

Of course this could also be just part-and-parcel of the conspiracy theories on which Occupy seems to depend.

Posted by Troll II on May. 11, 2012 @ 10:22 am

It was most certainly agent provocateurs out to discredit the Occupy movement. The question is, who was behind it? It appears that some of those cops knew what was going down. Read on...

"The other thing that bothered me is the level of destruction and the targets. This was all Bay of Rage Indybay organized, from what I gather, but it was all wrong. Black Bloc goes after state or corporate property not that of the working class and poor. I disapprove of that behavior, as it is not something I would personally engage in, however, this was off. This wasn’t directed against corporations or big banks, with the exception of one single ATM I saw smashed. This was specifically directed against mom and pop shops, local boutiques and businesses, and cars. Lots and lots of cars. I won’t weep for the hipster dives or the WASP nests for nouveau riche white trash, but the working class, poor and immigrant owned places I will. At first it was a few luxury cars, but as I followed the march down Valencia from a distance, it was all types of cars. There was a little girl crying and her mom was holding her and telling some onlookers that people smashed their car windows right in front of them as they were walking to it. She’s always going to remember the ‘mean people’ smashing. Everyone everywhere was really upset and blaming Occupy."

"We’ve spent months radicalizing and empowering the Mission, working with and learning from groups who have already been here for decades, trying to use our momentum, enthusiasm and appeal to energize moribound organizations and skittish and apathetic people. We’ve been encouraging people to feel empowered to organize themselves, to get unions for day laborers, to march for and bring attention to our terrible immigration practices, hell the list goes on and on. It’s just convenient that these so called ‘protesters’ acted in such a way to undermine and burn all those bridges we’ve been so carefully building. The destruction was too calculated and precise in it’s seeming randomness to be Black Bloc or even those fucking suburban scumbags who get an anarchist patch at Hot Topic and think that gives them license to come to Oakland or SF and burn shit down."

"Like I said, I don’t know who did this, but I am 1000000% certain they were not OccupySF and they were not OccupyOakland."

Posted by Laurent on May. 11, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

believing that the authorities think Occupy is so powerful a threat when, in reality, Occupy is a footnote whose 15 minutes of fame was about 9 months ago.

Delusions of grandeur, writ large.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

If you haven't noticed, President Obama is borrowing his campaign rhetoric directly from the Occupy movement...while economist and former labor secretary Robert Reich credits the Occupy movement with "changing the tenor and the shape of debate in this country about what was happening" and "putting inequality on the front page." Noam Chompsky has just written a book entitled Occupy. And none of this would have happened without Occupy, which is still going strong, even if the media is turning a blind eye. It won't for long. As the recession deepens (really a depression), Occupy can only grow stronger. So, dream on, revisionist troll. Occupy is not going away.

Posted by Laurent on May. 11, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

The average American sees it differently, and deems Occupy to be irrelevant.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

I love how you think that the government could not possibly do something like what these Occupy supporters are saying. I mean.... the CIA and the FBI purposely sold crack in the streets of Oakland to undermine the black community and the Black Panthers. So yes, when a group of people who all have the same issues and want the same change form all over our country, you better believe they will do what is necessary to stop that from happening. And if YOU think that is not possible and is a bunch of BS, then do your own homework and stopping having your own delusions. One day life is going to slap you in your face and show you just how naive you are. There is proof that has been released and readily available that shows our government is responsible for a lot of undercover operations such as what happened with the Black Panthers, so while I may not have evidence myself that this is happening or did happen so I cannot make a judgement one way or the other, I am also not dumb so I know that it is possible and to be wary.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

I wasn't at the rally and did not observe the acts of vandalism early May in the Mission, but I was struck by the comments on agent provocateurs. 40 years ago(Iknow, I know-ancient history, but wait..) the Revolutionary Communist Party staged a rally and march on May Day at 24th and Mission--more than 25 RCP members and supporters were arrested and charged with offenses ranging from failure to disperse to felonious assault on SFPD officers. The cases dragged on for months and months. Those charged mounted vigorous defenses and guess what-in the course of presenting evidence it came out that the SFPD maintained a Red Squad, that members of the Red Squad were at the rally dressed and draped in red flags and other so called Communist apparel, that they had been briefed and counseled in how to disrupt and discredit the RCP's activities that day. Anyone who has any sense of history knows that police departments since Jonah filled the whale maintain security squads and undercover operatives.. Were the undercover(and/or off duty) ops on Valencia early this month? I don't know, but I do know that is a reasonable question and rational investigation might prove fruitful. Don't be blinded by political prejudice. Occupy has been around long enough and has made an impact and it I'll bet it has drawn the attention of police security scrutiny. Whether any of this means the cops were part of the vandals, I don't know.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

Why would the cops invest all this effort in descreditting a "movement" that already is destroying itself from within?

Your sixties memories are adorable, but irrelevant

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

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