Rally held outside bankers convention

October 27, 2009 2:53:00 PM PDT
A few thousand protestors gathered downtown to bash the banks whose leaders are holding a convention in Chicago this weekHowever, bankers claim the economic downturn is not their fault. They blame the problem on unscrupulous lenders.

Bankers may be replacing lawyers as the profession many Americans love to hate. Fueled by the foreclosure crisis, bail-outs and bonuses, those who can't keep up with their mortgage payments are taking their anger out on bank executives. They say bankers got a break, so where is their's?

"I really don't want to leave my home. That's the bottom line, I don't want to leave," said Bonita Williams, whose home is being foreclosed.

Williamson knows the next knock on her door could be the Sheriff enforcing an eviction notice. The bank has foreclosed on her property, which has been in the family 40 years. Williamson's building is the 11th foreclosed home on the one-block stretch of South Loomis Street.

"To them it's property. To everyone else it's a building. To me it's a legacy," said Williamson.

Williamson was among those marching down Michigan Avenue Tuesday toward a bankers' conference. Special interests -- including unions and the elements of the activist group ACORN - populated the protest. They're critical of banks that received government bail-out money -- now fighting efforts to tighten regulation.

"What we said when we gave billions - trillions - of dollars to bail them out is it's to recover the economy -- not just the people at the top," said Tom Balanoff, Service Employees International Union.

A spokesman for the bankers' association said the protestors' anger is misplaced. The banks say since 2007 loan modifications have helped 5-point-2 million people stay in their homes.

"At some point don't people carry personal responsibility for biting off more than they can chew?" said ABC7's Ben Bradley.

"They do but - but they sold packages designed to take advantage of people," said Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow-PUSH Coalition.

Williamson originally agreed to a $2,000 a month mortgage. After an illness and reduced hours at work, she says one-thousand a month is all she can afford. Her bank says it's not enough.

"I'm not leaving. Hook or crook I'm here til the end because everyone is entitled to a chance in this lifetime and they didn't give me one," said Williamson.

No one from Eastern Savings Bank, Williamson's lender, returned ABC7 Chicago's call for comment Tuesday.

Representatives of the American Bankers' Association also declined to talk on camera about public perception of their industry. Instead, they released a statement.


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