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Citigroup Protests: Philly 8/2; LA 8/17/00

by Matthew Lee / InnerCityPress.org Friday, Aug. 18, 2000 at 4:26 AM
mattlee@innercitypress.org 718-716-3540 P.O. Box 580188, Mount Carmel Station, Bronx, NY 10458

Citigroup, the largest U.S. bank, is being called to account by an emerging coalition of community, environmental, and human rights groups. Round One was in Philadelphia on August 2; Round Two is in Los Angeles, August 17, 9 a.m., Pershing Square. After that, for more information, visit , , or . As Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney says (on PBS), "See How We Earn It." How? From redlining to redwoods, prisons to predatory lending...

Citigroup Protests: Philly 8/2; LA 8/17/00

On August 17, a protest of Citigroup is planned in Los Angeles. Citigroup is the largest U.S.-based bank; it lobbied and contributed to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, removing any prohibition on the merger of banks, insurance companies and securities firms. Given the mainstream media’s reduction of the protests to cartoon-like accounts of violence and/or arrests, the basis of the Citigroup protests may be lost or ignored. So, this (first hand) account of Round One of the Citigroup Accountability Campaign, in Philadelphia on August 2.

The South Bronx, NY non-profit where I work, Inner City Press, connected up with some of the Seattle / anti-WTO organizers earlier this year. They had in mind targeting the companies which finance the environmentally and socially destructive projects they oppose, and fastened on Citigroup. Here in the Bronx, Citibank has closed most of its branches, and excludes most of the South Bronx from its (normal interest rate) lending. Consider: In 1999, in the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), Citicorp Mortgage made 1236 conventional home purchase loans to whites, and only 56 such loans to African Americans, and only 58 to Latinos. Meanwhile, Citicorp Mortgage denied 14.9% of applications from African Americans, versus a 4.5% denial rate for whites. Citicorp Mortgage denies African Americans 3.31 times more frequently than whites (other lenders in New York deny African Americans 2.0 times more frequently than whites).

In the Chicago MSA in 1999, Citicorp Mortgage denied 29.2% of applications from African Americans for conventional home purchase loans, versus only 5.0% of applications from whites, meaning that Citicorp Mortgage denies African Americans 5.84 times more frequently than whites. Citicorp Mortgage’s denial rate disparity between African Americans and whites in the Oakland MSA in 1999 was 4.04. In the Washington, D.C. MSA, it was 3.11. Another affiliate, Citifinancial, targets the South Bronx and areas like it with high interest rate loans. (For more, see www.innercitypress.org/citi.html). The anti-WTO organizers really opened our eyes, about potential allies, and the need to bring public scrutiny to Citigroup, and banks like it, from all angles.

In Philly on August 2, we held a mock ceremony in front of Citigroup’s office on Market Street, awarding Citi a modified bowling trophy as “The World’s Most Destructive Bank.” A hundred or so people (well, “civilians”) attended, along with several hundred riot-equipped police. Helicopters hovered over Market Street. The mainstream media attended, but mostly declined to cover, the Citigroup awards ceremony. They came to see if we’d break windows, and/or get arrested. When neither happened, they left. But alliance were built. And will expand to “Accountability Projects” about other banks, including… Wells Fargo (see innercitypress.org/wells.html) Citibank threw its weight around to get its merger with Travelers approved, then lobbied and contributed to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act. The WTO rules benefit Citigroup, which is buying up banks in developing countries. “New Democrat” Robert Rubin went from Goldman Sachs to the Treasury Department, and out again to Citigroup. Would Al Gore make him Fed chairman after Greenspan? The socially-liberal wing of the Wall Street duo-party… I wish we could (already) do more. But Philly on August 2 (and Los Angeles on August 17 – Pershing Square, 9 a.m.) are a start. Something new is happening… In the South Bronx, it took us a while to realize it, to reach out to find out more about it, to get past facile critiques. It’s worth doing this. Something new is afoot…

It’s: August 17, 9 a.m., Pershing Square. After that, for more information, visit , , or .

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