As participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement continue protesting the record profits made by banks bailed out by taxpayer money, a group of grassroots activists are hitting America’s largest banks—including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo—where it hurts most: the wallet. Dubbing this Saturday, Nov. 5 as "Bank Transfer Day," activists are urging people to move their money out of the banks deemed "too big to fail" into local community banks and credit unions. Bank Transfer Day draws on an idea popularized by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, economist Rob Johnson and columnist Arianna Huffington, among others. In 2010, they created the short film called "Move Your Money," which became a viral sensation. We speak with filmmaker Eugene Jarecki. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn here to New York and the Occupy movement. As participants in Occupy Wall Street continue protesting the record profits made by banks bailed out by taxpayer money, a group of grassroots activists are hitting JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo where it hurts most: the wallet. Dubbing this Saturday as "Bank Transfer Day," activists are urging people to move their money out of the largest banks in the country into local community banks and credit unions.
Bank Transfer Day draws on an idea popularized by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, economist Rob Johnson, and columnist Arianna Huffington, among others. In 2010, they created the short film Move Your Money, which became a viral sensation.
For more on the Move Your Money proposal, I’m joined here in New York by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki. His works include Why We Fight, which won the 2005 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and The Trials of Henry Kissinger, among others.
Eugene, welcome to Democracy Now!
EUGENE JARECKI: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how this movement began.
EUGENE JARECKI: Well, it’s a wonderful story. Really, it was an idea among some friends. I mean, I had a lucky chance to have a Christmas dinner with Arianna Huffington. Everybody should be so lucky. It was very interesting. And a few people sat around, and we talked about, where is the outrage? All this is going on with these "too big to fail" banks. Banks fail, and they get bailed out. We people, when we fail, nobody bails us out. Where’s the outrage? And this "where is the outrage" question drove us, at the table, to come up with this idea of, well, what if we told people to just move their money? Why don’t people just move their money? And that became a bit of a slogan, literally during dinner.
And I went off, and I made a short film, which is a three-minute film that did go viral and was this film called Move Your Money. And what it did was it took the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, and it said to people, if you’ve ever watched It’s a Wonderful Life, and you know all the points you usually get choked up and you cry for George Bailey, because you love George Bailey—you love George Bailey because he’s a small community banker, and you don’t like Mr. Potter, because he’s a rapacious, predatory large banker. And if you don’t like Mr. Potter, you should get your money away from Mr. Potter and get it with George Bailey. Seems sort of obvious that people should just do what they most idealize. So that’s where it started. Now it has a life of its own.
AMY GOODMAN: Last month, about two dozen people were arrested at a Citibank branch here in Manhattan when they attempted to move their money out of the bank. The protesters were reportedly locked into the bank, then detained. Bank officials accused the protesters of being disruptive. Video shot outside the bank shows an undercover police officer dragging one woman into the bank and then arresting her.
UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICER: You were inside. You were inside with everybody else.
CUSTOMER: I’m a customer. I’m a customer.
WITNESS 1: She is a customer.
CUSTOMER: I’m a customer.
UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICER: You were inside. Yes, but you were inside with the whole—no, no, no.
WITNESS 2: What are you doing?
WITNESS 1: Hey, what the—hey!
WITNESS 3: What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? This is all being documented right now. She’s not doing anything! She’s not doing anything wrong! Oh, my god! This is wrong! This is wrong! This is wrong! What you’re doing is wrong! This is wrong! You should be ashamed of yourself! Shame! Shame! Shame!
AMY GOODMAN: So, this woman is being dragged into the bank. She said she had wanted to go in to just remove her money.
EUGENE JARECKI: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Then she was dragged in and arrested.
EUGENE JARECKI: I mean, I watch that with enormous admiration, because I see people doing what they should be doing, and I see the system getting frightened. The system is acting in a way the system shouldn’t act.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s play a bit of your short film, Move Your Money.
PA BAILEY: You know, George, I feel that in a small way we’re doing something important, satisfying a fundamental urge...for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace.
GEORGE BAILEY: Enter the Martini Castle, where joy and prosperity may reign forever.
HENRY POTTER: What does that get us? A discontented, lazy rabble, instead of a thrifty working class.
GEORGE BAILEY: This rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.
ERNIE BISHOP: Don’t look now, but there’s something going on over there at the bank, George.
GEORGE BAILEY: I beg of you not to do this thing. If Potter gets a hold of this building and loan, there will never be another decent house built in this town.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Those are not the people who should be asked to pay for this bailout.
REP. MICHAEL CAPUANO: All or most of you engaged in the activities that actually created this crisis.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Bank of America is too big to fail.
SEN. JON TESTER: So what you’re saying is those 14 are too big to fail.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER: I don’t think, Senator, I want to use those words, but—
HENRY POTTER: Do you put any real pressure on these people of yours to pay those mortgages?
PA BAILEY: Times are bad, Mr. Potter. A lot of these people are out of work.
HENRY POTTER: Well, then foreclose.
PA BAILEY: I can’t do that. These families have children.
HENRY POTTER: They’re not my children.
GERRI WILLIS: Big cities across the country are seeing a big jump in the number of people losing their homes.
GEORGE BAILEY: Alright, now, Mrs. Thompson, how much do you want?
MRS. THOMPSON: But it’s your own money, George.
GEORGE BAILEY: Now, never mind about that. How much do you want now?
MRS. THOMPSON: Well, I can get along with $20 all right.
GEORGE BAILEY: Twenty dollars, fine.
MRS. THOMPSON: And I’ll sign the papers.
GEORGE BAILEY: You don’t have to sign anything. I know you. You pay it when you can. That’s OK.
AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Move Your Money. Eugene Jarecki made that film. And where are we today?
EUGENE JARECKI: Well, we’re in a wonderful new world. I mean, there is a lot of stuff happening around this country. For example, this Saturday, November 5, is the Bank Transfer Day. That’s a—I woke up one morning, read the paper that people were doing something called Bank Transfer Day. What is it? It’s a day where you move your money. You take your money out of the "too big to fail" banks that have so damaged the American people and so benefited at our expense, and you move it into small community banks, credit unions.
And there’s a way to do that. You can go to moveyourmoney.info, and you can type in your zip code, and you can learn about banks in your area that are good, that are sound, that are small, that are, you know, in the interest of your community.
But what’s amazing is, things like Bank Transfer Day, these activities that are happening, they’re happening with a life of their own. You asked me when I came on the program, am I sort of involved or responsible? No. This is happening all over the country. It’s happening in a viral kind of way, in a way that’s very hard to stop. And I think it’s because people find the idea exciting. They find it morally right. And they know it’s in the interest of the future. And they’re doing it. And I think everybody should come out on Saturday and move their money, absolutely. It’s a big deal.
AMY GOODMAN: Eugene Jarecki created the short film Move Your Money in 2010 that went viral. And now that’s what a lot of people are going to be doing this Saturday, November 5th.