Local protesters join in rally against Bank of America

achristnovich@islandpacket.comMay 9, 2012 

Drivers traveling past a Bank of America branch in Bluffton honked, waved and gave thumbs-ups Wednesday to a group of about 15 people holding signs with slogans like "B of A bailed out ... homeowners kicked out!"

The protesters convened at the Bluffton branch off U.S. 278 to support Bank of America protests in other places, coinciding with the corporation's annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte, where hundreds rallied. The branch on Pope Avenue on Hilton Head Island had about 10 protesters, according to organizer John Giles.

"They got that huge bailout... and they did nothing to pay the public back," said Sergei Goregliad, protesting outside the Bluffton branch. "I feel filled with remorse."

Linda Bring, who said she is a Bank of America customer, added that Bluffton bank officials stopped her at the door Wednesday and wouldn't let her inside to air her grievances to a manager. A reporter wasn't allowed into the bank, either.

The group was in the bank's parking lot for about 15 minutes before bank workers locked the doors, allowing in only customers not connected with the protest. Bluffton police Capt. Bryan Norberg appeared soon after and asked the group to move across the street because of a complaint from the bank.

The protesters weren't breaking any laws but had to move off the business' property, Norberg said. Interaction between Norberg and the group was polite, and attitudes were cheerful.

"They have a right to use their speech," Norberg said with a shrug.

Jim Hoerner organized the Bluffton gathering on behalf of the Lowcountry American Dream Council. Hoerner said the group was formed in July and decries banks that received federal bailout money.

"I'd been one of those citizens that's done so much griping, and I realized (the council) is a way I can actually do something," he said.

Bluffton and Hilton Head's activists mainly objected to Bank of America's foreclosure rates. Hoerner passed out fliers to passersby describing the foreclosures as "reprehensible practices."

Bank of America spokeswoman Nicole Nastacie said in an email the company had no comment on the protests or the branch's refusal to let protesting customers in.

Meanwhile, 500 to 750 protesters marched in Charlotte from three directions on the Bank of America Corp. headquarters. The protest was mainly organized by Unity Alliance and 99% Power. Dozens were arrested throughout the day, including several people who tried to break into the headquarters to disrupt the shareholder's meeting.

The bank has said little directly about the planned protests. In the past, the bank has said it has modified more than 1 million mortgages and has nearly 50,000 employees dedicated to helping people avoid foreclosure.

The Charlotte Observer contributed to this report.

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