Hearing about an October 11 demonstration at the Bank of America branch on University Avenue at 31st Street, I dropped by. Not connected with the Occupy San Diego movement, this protest was connected to the upcoming “Bank Transfer Day."
Standing on the sidewalk, Jeff O. and Stephen D. held up signs while O. engaged customers as they came by. O. said he had been there four days and that he planned to remain. An armed security guard stood near the ATMs.
“I'm just encouraging folks to close their account with BofA and move their money to a nonprofit credit union,” O. said. “San Diego is full of great credit unions.”
O., who is unemployed, said he was giving away leaflets for California Coast Credit Union when people asked him what credit union to go to. He said if the person opens and keeps an account, he later gets a referral fee of $25; but O. said that's not his motivation behind the protest.
After awhile, a man in a suit approached O. and started peppering him with questions. He asked what credit union O. would recommend and O. said "California Coast." The man then said O. was “running a business” there by recommending a credit union. O. denied running a business.
The man identified himself as Darrell Freeman, corporate security for the bank. He refused to give me his business card when I asked for it. He told O. that he could, “with one phone call,” get O.'s credit union account canceled at California Coast. He threatened to make the call if O. kept up the demonstration.
After I completed this story, O. emailed me with some more info:
"[The man who claimed to be Freeman] came back demanding my ID again. I asked him for a business card and he continued to refuse. I offered to trade mine for his and he kept going back to his demand to see my ID while standing on a public sidewalk. I held my ground but his threats still had me spooked. So I called my Credit Union to ask if he really could close my account. They laughed out loud and basically said, 'full steam ahead!'"
Pictured: Stephen D. (left) and Jeff O. and hold up signs outside the Bank of America in North Park