Arizona Community Groups Join National Campaign Exposing @WellsFargo’s Private Prison Profiteering

Photo by Summitt Photography

Text by Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa and Gabriel Schivone. Reposted from NNIRR’s blog:

(TUCSON, AZ) Yesterday evening (May 12), local human rights and activist groups held a rally at the Wells Fargo’s Downtown Tucson branch, in a coordinated national campaign to pressure the bank conglomerate to withdraw its financial support for the private prison industry. Wells Fargo invests in private prisons company Geo Group, Inc.—the second largest private prison company in the world contracted by state and federal government agencies.

View photo slide-show of Tucson rally demanding prison divestment; click here.

The rally consisted of a press conference of about 50 community members belonging to various local community groups, including Corazón de Tucson, Coalición de Derechos Humanos, No More Deaths/We Reject Racism Campaign, Southside Workers Center, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, UNIDOS, and others.

Community groups have joined the Prison Industry Divestment Campaign (spearheaded by Enlace, a Los-Angeles-based group) to convince shareholders (banks, hedge funds, etc.) to divest their funds from the prison industry in order to make an impact on the prison business and reduce the power of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group from lobbying for laws that imprison communities.

Activists point out the injustice behind the profiteering from criminalizing and incarcerating people. Those who benefit are companies that invest in the prison industry. Wells Fargo is one of the largest investors in Geo Group.

Equipped with banners and a megaphone, the rally congregated on the sidewalk a few feet outside the main doors of the bank. One of the authors of this report, Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa of Corazón de Tucson, opened the rally with a blistering pronouncement that “this is an assault on all peoples, not just migrants and not just Latinos; this is connected to the attack on our youth and the battle for Ethnic Studies. Corporate interests want us to be trapped in low-wage jobs or go into the prison pipeline. Today we say this is not the future we want for our youth!”

There were also young children and youth in attendance.

Karla Hernandez, a mother of two, voiced her serious concern over corporations like Wells Fargo profiting from the separation of families and the incarceration of community members. “We have innocent, hard-working mothers and fathers in these prisons,” she stated.

The community groups had planned to deliver a letter to Wells Fargo management, but the bank called the police and an officer notified the crowd that they would not allow any protestors inside. The community still approached the doors and began chanting: “Wells Fargo Meet with Us!” They didn’t. But the letter was handed to an officer who took it inside.

“They’re scared of community power!” noted No More Deaths member Danielle Alvarado.

A representative from the University of Arizona Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, local student Gabriel Schivone, invoked the past work of local activists who, decades ago, through similar nationally-coordinated actions, helped force Wells Fargo, among other banks, to divest from the brutal South African Apartheid regime. He also read excerpts from recent public letters to the UA community from world-renowned luminaries South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and public intellectual Cornel West calling for divestment from corporations profiting from US-supported human rights abuses in AZ, nationwide, and Israeli-occupied Palestine.

Before closing the rally, protestors made it clear that this is only the beginning of a long-term struggle for justice and freedom.

The demands declared yesterday assert that Wells Fargo:

  • Divest from the Prison Industry
  • Dump the prison stock from The GEO Group
  • Invest in humanity

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