Denver protest targets Prison Profiteering Corporations & ALEC

Protesters gather outside 1700 Broadway after marching through the lobby, escorted by police and security guards.Denver protest targets Wells Fargo, ALEC

By Heather Draper | Denver Business Journal | February 29, 2012

A group of about 30 protesters marched through the lobby of the 1700 Broadway building in downtown Denver Wednesday afternoon, banging handmade drums and protesting Wells Fargo & Co. and the bank’s involvement with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The protesters said they were members of the Occupy movement, as well as MoveOn.org and other progressive organizations.

They were quickly escorted out of the building by police and security guards, but held a quick rally near doors on the Lincoln Street side of the building.

The protest was part of a nationwide Leap Day protest, titled “Shut down the corporations: Leap into Action! Reclaim our Future!” led by Occupy groups.

“We want to expose ALEC because of the insidious, unknown and under-reported funding of the legislative process,” said protester Ken Connell, a member of MoveOn and Occupy Denver.

Protesters were specifically targeting Wells Fargo — Colorado’s largest bank — because of its investments in the for-profit private prison industry. They say that corporations such as GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America benefit from cruel detention and deportation policies.

ALEC is “the nation’s largest nonpartisan individual membership association of state legislators, with more than 2,000 state legislators across the nation and 100 alumni members in Congress. ALEC’s mission is to promote free markets, individual liberty and federalism,” according to the organization’s website.

The group promotes pro-business and conservative causes in state legislatures around the country, drafting model legislation for local lawmakers.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Cristie Drumm confirmed that Wells is a member of ALEC, but denied that the bank lobbies in support of private prison interests.

“We don’t lobby anyone regarding immigration or incarceration issues,” she said. “All of our lobbying efforts are around financial services.”

The 1700 Broadway building is home to a large Wells Fargo branch and offices, and is connected by a skybridge to Wells Fargo Center, or the “cash register” building.

The Wells Fargo stop Wednesday was part of Denver protest “tour” of companies and organizations that reportedly give money to ALEC, including Yum Brands (parent of Taco Bell/Pizza Hut/KFC), Verizon and PhRMA, an organization that represents pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies.

They also protested outside the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center at 490 W. Colfax.

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