Wells Fargo, king of private prisons, shut down for the day; seven arrested


by Adrienne Lauby

Santa Rosa, Calif. – On Dia de Reyes, the Day the Three Kings, a false king was exposed. Wells Fargo is the king of private prison finance, a king who shows no remorse as it forecloses on the houses and homes of its victims. But, on Friday afternoon, Jan. 6, two branches of Wells Fargo in Santa Rosa were closed for the day and seven people were arrested after they did civil disobedience inside the banks.

The protest, a collaboration between the immigrant rights community and the Occupy movement, drew 400-500 people for a march and rally. Their target, Wells Fargo, is the trustee of a fund that is heavily invested in two private prison corporations, Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group. These corporations own a majority of the detention centers that house undocumented immigrants across the U.S.

These same corporations helped draft the model for the Arizona anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, insuring a steady stream of immigrant prisoners for their private detention prisons. Because they contract with the U.S. government at a cost to taxpayers of $5.5 million a day, they profit from the misery of the immigrants and their community.

Okili Nguebari, originally from Congo, Africa, spoke at the rally about his experience in a private immigration prison. Three years ago he was picked up in front of his home by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and held for three months in an immigration detention facility owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in Eloy, Arizona.

In addition, the protestors challenged Wells Fargo’s practices around foreclosures and short sales of houses in Sonoma County. In only four years, foreclosures in the county have skyrocketed from 71 to 4,469 homes – nearly 4,450 families this year have lost their houses and all of their equity because banks and financiers manipulated the market.

Protestors unfurled a banner in the lobby of the main branch of Wells Fargo reading, “Homes Not Jails.” Then they read statements about the bank’s financing of private prisons and stories of people affected by deportations until they were arrested. Wells Fargo personnel detained at least two of the protestors in a citizen’s arrest.

“It was empowering to stand there and speak the truth,” Carolyn Epple said about her act of civil disobedience.

The protestors called on all Sonoma County residents to demand that Wells Fargo immediately divest from investments in immigrant prisons and declare a moratorium on foreclosures in Sonoma County. They also asked people to move their money from Wells Fargo into a local bank or credit union.

Jesus Guzman of the DREAM Alliance at Santa Rosa Junior College called the protest a “defining moment” for both the Occupy and Immigrant Rights movements.

“It’s about time,” he said and, judging by the cheers, the crowd agreed.

The coalition included the Graton Day Labor Center, the DREAM Alliance of Sonoma County, MEChA of Santa Rosa Junior College, the Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County, as well as Occupy groups from around the county. An Occupy Petaluma contingent rode bicycles to the rally.

The energetic and colorful march included a contingent wearing bright orange jumpsuits representing immigration detainees and the Hubbub Club Marching Band. A troupe of Aztec dancers led the march.

Adrienne Lauby is a Bay Area-based writer and a programmer at KPFA Radio 94.1FM. She can be reached at adrienne@sonic.net.

Editor’s note: Private prisons that Wells Fargo invests in also house thousands of California prisoners moved out of state prisons in response to a federal court order to reduce overcrowding.



  1. I have an idea…..go the eff home if u don't want to be detained for being here illegally. And don't buy a house if you can't make the payments for the term of the agreement. Geez, I want to be a supportive liberal but you idiots sure make it hard when you are out front in the public eye with arguments that no reasonable person can support.

  2. You sound more like a racist conservative than a “liberal”. Did you forget about the scams the banks were pulling on minorities? Or did you choose to ignore that fact? And if youre “liberal” government was not in the business of training and arming death squads in Latin America as well as imposing its economic policies then you wouldnt have so many people escaping the hell hole that your government creates. Now stop playing the part and admit who & what you really are. A real liberal doesnt hold the views you just expressed.

  3. @ Ann_Garrison: How about turning your outrage towards those that GAVE the banks big bailouts. Do you actually believe banks profit by losing out on mortgage payments, carrying assets that generate NO revenue (i.e. foreclosed homes with no tenants)?

    This is so silly. Like guest said, I try to be a supportive social justice advocate, but geez louise. Get angry at Washington, the congress, the senate, the individuals giving my money and your money away in corporate welfare.

    Do you blame the welfare recipient for taking the assistance? No, and you very well shouldn't. So why then do you think it is intellectually honest to blame corporate welfare recipients for taking the same government assistance?

    Be mad at the elected representatives and throw them out on their collective backsides. The outrage directed at banks, wall street, or whomever only hurts the little guys that work for those places. Shutting down the Wells Fargo Branch just took money out of a middle class persons pocket. How can you be for the little guy when these actions only hurt the little guy.

    Wake up people.

  4. I always think it is odd when people think the occupy movement is about hand outs and liberals, the only one's that got a hand out were the banks, and not just our money theirs too. The anger I suppose is because Main Stream Media fueling the people through propaganda and manipulation guess they are accomplishing their mission the limited knowledge about what is really going on with occupy and the country is ridiculous guessing they know people have been buying the BS for years. Sad really…Wake Up Please and educate yourselves..if you really want to know what is going on TURN OFF YOUR TV's..So many of you are being used a pawns in this whole mess. They have committed crimes and need to be accountable for that, The last four months has been an effort to make people aware but people aren't listening…Next stop is DC on Jan 17th … Our freedoms are being taken away 1 by 1 and all people can do is be distracted by FOX News…This is bigger that the banks, haven't you seen how the police treat protesters? Don't you find that odd? We have been in other countries fighting so that the people in those countries can protest, Don't you think that is odd? Anyway, laws are being passed, civil liberties lost while so many of you are name calling and angry..But think about it, What are you angry about? and Why? Have the protesters hurt you? Please help in this effort to get back our Constitution. Freedom of Speech, Right to Assemble, and Rights to Protest the Gov. We are all Americans "We Need You" .. Some of us will go to jail for you some may even die. God Bless America and Peace and Love to ALL ..

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