WASHINGTON — Police maced several elderly protesters Tuesday at JPMorgan Chase’s annual shareholder meeting in Columbus, Ohio, according to activists present at the event.
Hundreds of people from dozens of communityorganizing groups swarmed the Tuesday meeting to demand the company overhaul its widely criticized foreclosure policies. JPMorgan Chase hasimproperly broken into the homes of its borrowers in order to pursue foreclosures and has been accused of robo-signing thousands of key foreclosure documents. Federal regulators slapped the company with a consent order over foreclosure problems earlier this year, and the federal government is currently contemplating filing charges that the company defrauded taxpayers with its foreclosure policies on government-backed loans.
In telephone interviews with HuffPost, multiple protesters complained of an overly aggressive police presence.
George Goehl, Executive Director of National People’s Action, which helped organize the protest, said he and several elderly protesters were maced as police attempted to move protesters back from the building.
“There must have been 10 police for every banker,” Goehl told HuffPost. “JPMorgan Chase, they don’t only own the government. They own the Columbus police department.”
The Columbus Department of Police did not respond to phone calls for comment on this story.
“It was insane,” said Robin Acree, Executive Director of Grass Roots Organizing, a social justice group based in Missouri, who said she was still in pain several hours after the protest from being maced.
Feny Dorsey, a 55-year-old resident of Mexico, Missouri, told HuffPost she was maced and saw other older people being maced, as well.
“We was trying to get to the Chase estate,” Dorsey told HuffPost. “We didn’t make it as far as we were hoping to, but we made it far enough to make a statement. We was walking forward and the cops said, ‘Turn around.’ And as we were making a turn, he just started macing us.”
Acree said that despite the aggressive police tactics, the protest was a success.
“We’re pretty psyched,” Acree told HuffPost. “The motivation behind all this is the fact that our economy has been failed and the culprits were these bank guys. I live in Mexico, Missouri, the population there is like 11,000 people and we have no jobs. A tank of gas is costing us $4 a gallon for chrissake, and yet they’re telling us we’ve gotta continue to sacrifice for the deficit. How much more can a community sacrifice?”
Veteran union organizer Stephen Lerner said the police were notably more aggressive at today’s protest than at events in the past.
“The period where they were ignoring us is over, I think,” Lerner said of today’s police activity.
Lerner, who has never endorsed violence, was recently targeted by Glenn Beck as an economic “terrorist” for advancing a plan to organize homeowners to stop paying their mortgages. The idea, which has been advanced by dozens of other anti-foreclosure advocates, is frequently described as a “mortgage strike,” which would be used to bargain for foreclosure relief.
Police threatened another group of protesters with dogs, although no serious injuries from dogs were reported. The demonstrators were dressed in Robin Hood costumes, using a makeshift bridge to cross a series of ponds surrounding the Chase compound, which resembles a medieval moat [see video of the moat crossing below, courtesy of NPA].
JPMorgan Chase spokesman Tom Kelly declined to comment on police actions, directing any questions to the Columbus Department of Police, which did not respond to phone calls. Kelly did suggest, however, that the Robin Hood-costumed protesters may have been marketing plants from Capital One, a bank known for using viking imagery in its television advertisements.
Calls to Capital One were not returned.