Protesters take message to Hampton bank customers

Posted: Jan 20, 2012 1:19 AM EST

By STEVEN REILLY

HAMPTON -- A core group of members from the Northwest New Jersey Progressive Alliance braved chilling temperatures Thursday to stage a small protest at the Chase Bank branch on state Route 206 to bring attention to legislation in Congress that would grant amnesty to the banking industry for failed home loans.

Patt Reid, an Occupy Newton grassroots organizer for the alliance, was joined by a handful of protesters also to gather signatures for a petition to block any legislation that would grant immunity to banking officials involved in the 2007 housing market crash.

"The banking industry took trillions of our tax dollars for a bailout and turned around to give it away in bonuses to their CEOs. Now they don't want to take responsibility for any of it," Reid said. "Foreclosures are still out of control, with a lot of irregularities and robo-signing, and the banks won't even try to negotiate with people who are underwater on their mortgages. They have to be held responsible for the mess they caused."

The protesters passed around a petition to customers of Chase Bank that calls for the attorney general of New Jersey, Jeffrey Chiesa, to join attorneys general from California, Delaware and New York in fighting the amnesty legislation in Congress that would allow banking officials to avoid prosecution for fraudulent home loans.

"They should not be allowed to skate on this crime," Reid said. "They took our tax dollars for their big bonuses while people are still losing their homes. They need to be held accountable."

Most bank customers were intrigued by the protest, but chose to avoid signing the petition, opting to give a wave or a honk of their horn as a gesture of support.

"We got a lot more honks than fingers today," Reid said.

Mike Marcino, a resident of Newton, was at the bank to conduct some transactions during the height of the protest.

"I have a lot of sympathy for the people who are losing their homes. I think the banks should find a fair way to work it out with their customers without taking our tax money to fix it," Marcino said. "Let's face it, banks are businesses, and the bottom line for any business is to make money. I don't think it is up to our government to give our tax dollars away so they can make millions."

A request for a comment from Chase Bank was not returned.

Reid said Occupy Newton and the Northwest New Jersey Progressive Alliance are planning similar protests around Sussex County each month leading up to the presidential election in November.

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