Any Given Sunday

Last September, I was at some off-the-record Washington dinner and
happened to be at the table of a Democratic Congressman. He'd just
gotten back from recess in his district, where he'd been subjected to
the full Tea Party treatment. As he described the rage he'd witnessed,
it was clear he was spooked. I remember thinking he was more scared of
voting for the healthcare bill than he was of voting against it, and
that was going to be a problem.

I thought about that Congressman this past Sunday as I watched more
than 700 protesters from National People's Action gather on the front
lawn at the home of Gregory Baer, deputy counsel for the Bank
Regulatory and Public Policy Group at Bank of America. NPA was coming
from the other end of the spectrum from the Tea Party, and was there to
demand a meeting with Baer's boss, the bank's CEO, Brian Moynihan. They
were black and brown and white, senior citizens and little kids sitting
on shoulders and lots of teenagers. They had bullhorns and signs and
chanted "Bank of America! Bad for America!" (which, I
promise, sounds better as a chant than it reads on the page). To hush
the crowd, organizers would raise their clenched fists, and instantly
it would fall silent. This was disciplined bedlam: like some crazy
hybrid of a hip-hop show and a picket line.

At first, it appeared that Baer was not home. But then one of his
neighbors pointed him out, sitting in his car anonymously watching the
proceedings. Once identified, Baer darted up his driveway and into his
house, as the crowd chanted, "Shame! Shame!" He refused to meet or
speak with the small leadership team or to call his boss to ask for a

I'm dispositionally inclined to cringe at actions like this: I don't
like conflict; I feel bad for the dude who's having his Sunday ruined.
But I got over that real quick when Trenda Kennedy of Springfield,
Illinois, took the bullhorn on Baer's steps. "In America, every seven
seconds one of our homes goes into foreclosure," she said. "My home is
one of those!"

After losing her job in 2008, Kennedy fell behind on her payments,
and last summer Bank of America foreclosed on her home. "Last
November," Kennedy said, "my 20-year-old son died...tragically in a car
accident. Thirty minutes after the coroner left, I got a phone call
from Annette at Bank of America. I told her about the tragedy that had
just happened to our family. Annette did not offer her condolences.
Instead she said, This call is from a debt collector, and it may be
recorded or monitored."

Sunday wasn't the first direct action NPA and its allies have
undertaken, and it wasn't the last. The next day, as part of the
"Showdown on K Street," activists stalled traffic on K Street and
entered the office of Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta. A hundred
people from a Massachusetts group called the Alliance to Develop Power
occupied Senator Scott Brown's office after his staffers had ignored
repeated requests for a meeting to discuss foreclosures and financial
reform. All of this is part of a nationwide series of direct actions
called "Showdown in America," spearheaded by NPA, the People Improving
Communities through Organizing (PICO) network and the Service Employees
International (SEIU). The campaign aims to dismantle the entire Wall
Street-Washington corporatist axis, which gave us the financial crisis,
the bailouts and 7 million foreclosures since 2008, a million of which
have ended in repossession.

It's about damn time. We have witnessed the greatest implosion of
American capitalism in nearly a century, and the only grassroots
movement the cataclysm seems to have birthed is a right-wing populist
backlash. When the country suffered a trauma that massively discredited
the establishment rulers, the Democratic Party became the
establishment. And progressive groups in DC, under stern White House
orders not to cause trouble (don't show up at his door! he's a donor!
we might nominate him for something!), descended into what one
organizer calls "grotesque transactionalism."

"Showdown in America" is a rebuke to that tactic. Choosing direct
action does not mean abandoning legislative mobilization, but it
articulates a broader vision than just support for this or that
amendment. "Now is not a time for tinkering," said NPA's executive
director, George Goehl, at the organization's conference earlier that
day. "We're not here to eke out a few victories along the margins. To
make suffering a little less worse for people.... The brutal facts are
that we cannot begin to build an economy for all of us when we have a
democracy that works only for corporations and members of Congress."

If we're going to get reform on the scale we need, bank lobbyists
and members of Congress alike have to be confronted with the terrifying
thought that the system from which they profit might just be run
over-that 700 angry protesters might show up on their lawn any given

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 The Nation