In the last few years, plenty has been written about the banks. Articles, editorials and blogs tell the story well about the greed and dishonesty that was and is standard fare by corporate bigwigs hot in pursuit of a bigger buck. The backlash is obvious, and nowhere is this clearer than here on campus. The tents in the Quad, the now-infamous spray-happy police officer, the rallies — all students here know about these. And this dissent is good for our democracy depends on it.
However, this article is different. I’m writing this not to attack, but instead to defend. If you’ve walked through the MU recently, you might have seen a group of students in front of the small on-campus US Bank branch barricading the entrance. I am not part of this group, so I won’t speak on their behalf about their philosophy or goals. Instead, I just want to speak about what I see, hear and know about the effects this barricade is having on the employees there.
I work in a nearby store, so I’ve gotten the chance to get to know the great people who work at the bank. It’s a small staff. A few students work there to help pay for the horrendous cost that is now public higher education. Examples of the staff’s generosity are abundant. Last quarter the bank hosted a potluck for the neighboring stores. One lady who works there is one of the most generous people I know. When she found out that one of my coworkers would not be going home for Thanksgiving, she promptly opened up her home. Not many people would do that.
I could tell more stories. I could tell about how one staffer who, instead of dropping by the store where I work and making everyone’s day with her smile and quick humor, now has to stand guard near the door of the bank, watching for protesters. I could tell about how one of the students who works at the bank has to have a police escort in order to make it to classes. And I can tell about how the sight of the staff behind shuttered glass doors brings to mind a cage — something, to me at least, that should never happen on a university campus.
If the goal of the barricade is to close down the bank permanently, then they’re well on their way. No business can stay running for long if the doors are mostly shuttered. Such a result would be devastating on the employees there — employees who have nothing to do with the excesses of Wall Street. The protesters are targeting the wrong people. All of them are part of the 99 percent. Enough lives have been wrecked by CEOs; let’s not wreck the lives of these fellow students and neighbors.