Hundreds march over to the Sheraton Hotel to confront the American Bankers Association.
The Showdown in Chicago is here and I wonder if it will live up to the hype that organizers have created around it. Certainly, there has been a lot of buzz.
Michael Moore has been promoting it. Huffington Post is encouraging citizen journalists to sign up and write about the protests. And at a time when we are hearing about huge bonuses going to executives in bailed out banks, taking on the banksters has never been so imperative.
I showed up to the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Chicago for the opening round of the Showdown in Chicago at 4:15 pm ET. The event kicked off with a welcome and invocation from Rev. Eugene Barnes of the Central Illinois Organizing Project.
Larry Ginter of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement followed with a rousing speech on who has gathered here in Chicago to take on the banks.
"We're family farmers and laborers. We're preachers and teachers. We are the homeless and we are the jobless. We are African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Anglo, and Native American. That's who we are. And we came here to send a message---we're mad as hell and we ain't gonna take it no more.
Corporate abuse, corporate power ---they love to split us up. Pit worker against worker, race against race, farmer against farmer, nation against nation--- I say to hell with them."
Ginter, who I profiled prior to the event, went through and described how the people present at this event had been victimized up to this point by banks who played fast and loose with Americans' money.
Tom Balanoff, president of the SEIU, stepped up to talk about why everyone was here:
"We're here to hold the bankers and the financers accountable and to make sure they start acting responsibly. There's not a single person in this room that caused the economic crisis that we're in. All we did is get up every day and go to work and try to build better lives for ourselves and our children, play by the rules, go by their rules, and what do they do? They robbed us."
Sen. Dick Durbin then came up to speak and he provided insight into the situation Americans face, what he hopes the bankers would see in Chicago while they are here, and how corporate power has been diluting the reforms he has been fervently supporting for the past years.
He told a story about a woman who suffered from predatory lending and he talked about how Newt Gingrich and George Will would be speaking to the American Bankers Association.
Following those speakers, a People's Commission was held to allow several speakers the opportunity to detail what has happened to them as a result of the banks' greed. They all came from community action or people's action organizations (most of them affiliated with the National People's Action network).
Rickie Coleman from Sunflower Community Action in Kansas loudly and raucously led the audience through this People's Commission. The audience was the jury. The defendants were the banksters. The plaintiffs were the American taxpayers who had been defrauded. The banksters were not surprisingly found guilty and accountability was demanded.