News / Economy

LA Protesters Blast Income Gap

Occupy LA protester Mike Oren, of Bowling Green, Ohio, stands outside Los Angeles City Hall in Los Angeles, October 27, 2011.
Occupy LA protester Mike Oren, of Bowling Green, Ohio, stands outside Los Angeles City Hall in Los Angeles, October 27, 2011.

Protests by the Occupy Wall Street movement are continuing in the financial district of New York and other American cities. Community leaders say the anger reflects the gap between rich and poor in the United States.

Oakland erupted over the past week as police fired tear gas at protesters downtown, and 3,000 demonstrators forced the temporary closure of the city's port.

Hundreds of protesters are camped outside Los Angeles city hall, complaining that the top one percent of the population is getting the income gains and the other 99 percent has been left out.

A husband and wife, both lawyers, joined the protesters this week. Jerry Manpearl said the income gap is too great.

“[If] you destroy the middle class, you destroy the working class, you destroy this county,” he said.

His wife, Jan Goodman, said the rich are not spending enough money to boost the economy.

“There's not enough boats and yachts and houses to buy. They save it,” she said.

Los Angeles religious leaders complain that the banks aren't lending either. A number of leaders from various faiths rallied outside the Bank of America regional headquarters on Tuesday, complaining that the bank has foreclosed on the homes of too many families with delinquent mortgages, and has done too little to invest in the inner city.

Shakeel Syed of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California sees a widening gap between rich and poor.

“When we visit certain neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles, you will see every second house being foreclosed, and the homes that are not foreclosed, the families are unable to meet the very basic needs," said Syed. "And then you cross town, and you see Ferraris and Corvettes and Lamborghinis parked in the driveways. There seems to be a major ethical disparity in this scenario.”

Protesters are urging Los Angeles officials to take the city's investments out of the major banks. Some religious congregations are already doing that.

And others notified Bank of America of their plans to divest this week.

Bank of America dropped a plan to impose fees on automated teller machines after customers protested the idea. The bank says it is working to help homeowners keep their houses, has made billions of dollars in new loans to small businesses, and is investing in low-income communities.

Catholic priest George Wanser isn't convinced. He works in an immigrant parish in San Jose, California, where struggling families live near high tech millionaires. He said families live together several to a house to pay the mortgage.

“In my area, there are four, five, sometimes six adults bringing home a salary to help pay for their mortgages. They're good people, they're hardworking, they're immigrants and they're responsible. It's a shame, what's happened,” said Wanser.

These protesters say they are part of a movement that is growing.


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