Reportback from Olympia and Lacey, WA on recent anti-ICE divestment actions against US Bank, the bond “trustee” for CoreCivic, and a bond “underwriter” for both GEO and CoreCivic.
On August 12th, over 25 people marched to and occupied US Bank branch in downtown Olympia, followed by a group of about 15 people then repeating the action and occupying the US Bank branch in Lacey. The action, organized by a working group of Olympia Assembly, comes on the heels of recent #DivestfromICE victories and is the latest in a series of divestment direct actions across the U.S.
Protesters gathered first in Sylvester Park, Olympia and marched towards 4th Ave and Capitol Way, where they entered US Bank. Police followed closely from Sylvester and into US Bank, with about 2 or 3 stationed inside during the duration of the demonstration. They did not intervene however, and protesters were able to chant and distribute leaflets to customers, workers, and around the space unobstructed. After leaving the bank, protesters stood outside chanting and holding up signs visible to passing cars and pedestrians, then marched back to Sylvester and mobilized for a follow up demo at the Lacey branch.
About four full cars then drove to and met up in a parking lot neighboring the US Bank on Martin Way in Lacey. Upon approaching the bank, protesters then began chanting “US Bank collaborates with ICE” as they entered, holding up a banner reading “Chinga La Migra” at the front so as to be immediately visible to everyone inside. A security guard stationed outside the bank perceived the group approaching and withdrew into the bank, but did not lock the doors and protesters were able to enter and continue chanting and distributing leaflets as they occupied the branch. Three customers left while the action occurred, and two probable customers turned back from entering the bank apparently after viewing the demonstration inside.
The majority of immigrant detainees (~70%) are imprisoned in detention centers operated by private prison companies like CoreCivic and GEO Group. These companies are structured as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which makes them reliant on financing from large financial institutions and vulnerable to credit loss. Divestment announcements, most recently including PNC, have caused private prison stock prices to plummet, consistent pressure on those still holding out is crucial. According to NASDAQ, Vanguard Group and BlackRock are some of GEO’s and CoreCivic’s largest institutional shareholders, owning stock totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars between the two corporations. In addition to U.S. Bank, HSBC is also listed as a bond “underwriter” for both GEO and CoreCivic. Bond underwriters enable the financing of migrant detention while making individual profit by purchasing bonds from the prison companies and reselling them to individual bondholders.
If you’re interested in organization divestment action in your community, a list of the remaining major shareholders/investors and local locations of individual bank branches and investment firm offices can be found here.