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By Aaron Besecker

October 13, 2011

Dozens of demonstrators rallied outside the downtown offices of JPMorgan Chase bank Thursday afternoon. It was the latest local action that is part of the larger anti-corporate, Occupy Wall Street protests that have swept across the country.

About 50 pickets -- some of whom were from organizations including Occupy Buffalo,, the Working Families Party and New York Communities for Change -- criticized the bank for receiving funds as part of the national bank bailout but not being flexible enough in its foreclosure policies.

Standing outside Main Place Tower, where the bank has offices on the 23rd floor, demonstrators held signs with slogans including "I am not your ATM," "Fight the rich -- not their wars" and "Protect middle class workers."

They also chanted slogans including, "Chase got the gold, we got the shaft" and "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."

The hourlong event, which began at noon, coincided with similar ones nationwide focused on JPMorgan Chase.

Demonstrators here called on city officials to cease any business the city has with the bank.

According to New York Communities for Change -- a successor group to ACORN, the controversial community action group -- a few communities in the state have either voted to pull funds out of the bank or are considering it.

Other groups that had representatives at the rally included the Coalition for Economic Justice, Citizen Action of New York, Jobs With Justice and a new Buffalo-based group, Take Back the Land.

The activists will hold meetings starting next week to help prevent people from having their homes foreclosed on, said organizer Mohamed Ramadan. The sessions are scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Oct. 27, and 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Grant Street Neighborhood Center, 271 Grant St.

Common Council President David A. Franczyk told The Buffalo News that he is open to considering the groups' request.

The City Comptroller's Office said that it did not have immediately available precise figures on how much money the city has deposited in the bank. It did say the city has deposits in a number of banks in the area, including JPMorgan Chase.

In an emailed statement, Deputy City Comptroller Darby R. Fishkin said that it is important for the city "to maintain positive relationships" with banks "that provide the best interest rates for the city's taxpayers."

"We do this through an open bidding process, and we do business with banks who offer competitive rates of return on our investments and successfully win in the competitive bidding process related to our bond sales," Fishkin said in the statement.

"This is consistent with our fiduciary responsibilities to all of the city's stakeholders. . . In order to maintain our 'A' rating with all three Wall Street rating agencies, the city must remain stable and be responsible to the taxpayers by keeping the cost of borrowing as low as possible."

In an email, JPMorgan Chase spokesman Michael F. Fusco said the bank has made "extensive efforts" to help borrowers.

"Chase has served the City of Buffalo successfully for more than 30 years," Fusco said, "and we will work with them to address any specific issues."