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Arrests Made As SF Protest Targets Wells Fargo Meeting

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Protesters march from Justin Herman Plaza to Wells Fargo Headquarters in San Francisco's Financial District. (CBS)

Protesters march from Justin Herman Plaza to Wells Fargo Headquarters in San Francisco’s Financial District. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Authorities arrested 24 protesters who were part of a group attempting to disrupt the Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in downtown San Francisco Tuesday afternoon, a police spokesman said.

Fourteen people were arrested inside the Merchants Exchange Building at 465 California St., where the meeting was being held, police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.

Six others were arrested outside the building for trespassing after blocking the entrances, he said. Another four were arrested by sheriff’s deputies for resisting arrest and interfering with a police officer.

PHOTOS: Occupy SF: Wells Fargo Bank

Andraychak noted that those numbers are based on preliminary information and could change.

The arrests occurred as hundreds of demonstrators rallied in the streets outside the building and marched through downtown.

Ruth Schultz, 25, of Des Moines, Iowa, said she was one of the people arrested inside the Merchants Exchange Building after interrupting the meeting.

Schultz, who had flown to San Francisco from Iowa for the protest, is a shareholder herself, and said everyone allowed into the meeting was a shareholder or a proxy.

She said Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf had just began speaking at the 1 p.m. meeting when a protester interrupted, yelling out a comment about families in foreclosure.

Schultz said protesters continued to interrupt Stumpf and were eventually escorted out of the meeting in pairs and had plastic handcuffs placed on them.

“They put us in a room in the Wells Fargo building,” she said.

Schultz said she was cited for interfering with a lawful assembly.

She said she had never been arrested before Tuesday.

“(There) comes a time when no one can tell you when and where you can raise your voice,” she said.

She carried a list of demands for Wells Fargo, including “stop financing private prisons” and “stop buying our democracy with political contributions.”

Organizers with Causa Justa, one of the groups that participated in the protest, said demonstrators are also calling on the bank to stop “practices that profit from community losses,” such as foreclosures and predatory lending.

Wells Fargo spokesman Ruben Pulido released a statement early Tuesday morning saying the bank is a “responsible corporate citizen” and paid $6 billion in taxes for 2011.

“Wells Fargo makes efforts to keep people in their homes,” Pulido said. “Over the past year, less than 2 percent of owner-occupied loans in our servicing portfolio have resulted in foreclosures.”

Of the protest, Pulido said Wells Fargo “respects the rights of Americans to peacefully assemble” and planned to focus Tuesday afternoon on “protecting the safety of our customers, team members and shareholders.”

Andraychak said the protest was peaceful.

“This was a successful event,” he said. “Protesters cooperated with police. We facilitated their First Amendment right.”

The protesters began gathering at 10 a.m. at Justin Herman Plaza and started marching around 11 a.m., heading up Market Street and turning right on California Street.

The march stretched for two blocks, with protesters chanting, “Wells Fargo, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side!” and “We are the 99 percent” in English and Spanish.

Bay Area clergy, organized by the faith-based grassroots organization San Francisco Organizing Project, held an interfaith prayer service at Justin Herman Plaza Tuesday morning, calling on Wells Fargo to make amends for what they claim is wrongdoing by the bank.

The Rev. Gloria del Castillo, of La Iglesia Episcopal del Buen Samaritano in San Francisco’s Mission District, said she is about to lose her home despite asking Wells Fargo for a loan modification.

She called Wells Fargo “unethical” and said the foreclosure crisis “reflects a deep spiritual crisis in the city.”

Pulido said that since 2009, Wells Fargo has helped more than 740,000 customers with loan modifications and forgiven $4.1 billion in principal.

“The unfortunate reality is that some customers are in homes they cannot afford, even with substantially reduced payments,” he said.

Protesters outside the Merchants Exchange Building said about 30 demonstrators, including former San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, were able to get inside the building through an entrance on Montgomery Street around 10:30 a.m.

Building security locked down the building a short time later, they said.

Shortly before 12:30 p.m., Daly could be seen sitting inside the doors.

A printed note on the door read, “There will be no access to the Merchants Exchange today due to heightened security.”

Meanwhile a number of protesters had linked arms and were blocking Liedesdorff Street, an alleyway that runs behind the Merchants Exchange Building.

Alice Pangburn, 53, of Salem, Ore., said she traveled 12 hours by bus to participate in Tuesday’s protest because she believes it is crucial in ending what she called “social injustice.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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