Occupy Evanston protesters launch campaign against Chase Bank

Audrey Cheng

Occupy Evanston supporters have rallied around a new cause this year, launching a campaign to convince the city and community members to divest from Chase Bank.

Protesters have stood outside the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., since Monday. They distributed leaflets stating their concerns against the bank.

Organizer Jack Sigel said several factors played into his decision to target Chase, one of the “Big Four” banks of the nation.

“Of the many issues that Occupy was concerned with, the ones that would make most sense for us to go after are the ones that we could target locally – and Chase Bank was sitting right there,” Sigel said.

Sigel claimed the city sends “too much” of their tax revenues to Chase, which in turn does not invest back into the local community.

He saw Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl near the protest site on Monday. She told The Daily on Wednesday the city originally invested in Chase Bank because of competitive rates.

“If it costs taxpayers more money (to change banks), then we won’t do it,” Tisdahl said. “I’ll admit it’s a monetary decision.”

Sigel also claimed Northwestern University was investing in Chase. Al Cubbage, NU’s vice president for university relations, denied Sigel’s assertion.

“Northwestern as an institution doesn’t own stocks in individual companies, such as Chase,” Cubbage said. “We work with investment management firms that invest in things like mutual funds, hedge funds, et cetera.”

Chase spokesman Thomas Kelly also rejected Sigel’s claims.

“We donate about $150 million a year to charity in countries around the world, and we hired 18,000 people in the U.S. in 2011,” Kelly said. “So those are investments into the community.”

Kelly strongly disputed Sigel’s other claims that Chase had a history of foreclosing on more homes than other banks.

“In 2009, Chase has had 420,000 mortgage modifications for customers and for other customers who couldn’t afford their homes; we worked out other arrangements to prevent foreclosure,” Kelly said. “Whenever we can, we try to keep people in their homes, but sometimes that isn’t possible, but we help consumers make that transition.”

Sigel also noted Chase Bank’s failure to stop the foreclosure on the homes of soldiers serving overseas.

Kelly admitted the bank improperly foreclosed on a dozen military families and created a situation they had to settle with the government.

“We mistakenly foreclosed on soldiers, and we have doubled our efforts to serve people in the military with the respect that they deserve,” Kelly said.

The Occupy Evanston protesters plan to continue their demonstration Saturday at the Evanston Farmers Market, 2024 McCormick Blvd.

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