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Boston activists infiltrate bankers' convention

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By CHRIS FARAONE  |  October 20, 2010

COVERT OPS: Protestors marched in victory circles after infiltrating the ABA conference.

On Tuesday, I got a tip to tail a fleet of activists to the Hynes Convention Center while they infiltrated the American Bankers Association's Business Expo and Director's Forum.

Two days earlier, more than 100 demonstrators had protested outside of the meeting. Tuesday's group thought they had to go further, beyond the bankers' doorstep. Their message: the ABA has "failed to step up and take responsibility for the crisis its members created."

The progressive push got under way just before 10 am, at the Community Church of Boston above Copley Square. By 10:30, about 30 peaceful aggressors were packed into a third-floor room, where they awaited marching orders from organizers with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Alliance to Develop Power (ADP), and Jobs with Justice.

The mission: disrupt the ABA outing.

Shortly after 11, word came back to headquarters that three moles who were dispatched early — dressed like bankers sporting forged ABA badges — arrived in the belly of the beast (a fourth was nabbed at the entrance). Within minutes, the spy trio would one by one interrupt a workshop on financial values titled "Proud To be a Banker."

"It won't be the end of the world if I get arrested," said one undercover operative. "But I hope I don't, since I have a lot of things to do today."

While Hynes security was disbanding the covert operation around 11:30, about 70 soldiers poured out of the Community Church armed with air horns, cow bells, and whistles. SEIU commander Lisa Fithian unfurled a makeshift map of the Prudential Center, showing her troops how to enter ABA territory through the shopping mall. For inspiration, the mission was dedicated to Chicago-based social-justice legend Shel Trapp, who died the night before, and who leaders said once marched right onto a banker's yacht.

"This is the Showdown of Massachusetts," shouted ADP ringleader Keya Alvarez. "You are now a part of history."

Two separate groups broke west at 11:40, walking past Back Bay branches of Bank of America, Sovereign, and Citizens banks, and toward the convention center. Four days earlier, President Barack Obama was stumping here for Governor Deval Patrick. "The country is scared," he'd said, "and they have good reason to be."

Once in the door, at around high noon, the swarm maneuvered past security guards, who frantically called for back-up. Initial requests for them to leave went ignored, as the group advanced up two escalators, charged down the glass hall overlooking Boylston Street, and entered the foyer abutting the conference. Before leaving, the remaining protesters shouted demands at attending bankers, some of whom snapped camera-phone pics on their way to lunch.

Arriving police officers quelled the situation without making arrests. One loud and angry activist was briefly handcuffed, but was soon after allowed to join the rally mounting outside. Most of the cops sped off for another call after 10 minutes, while the revelers marched in victory circles. ADP champ Alvarez delivered a fiery speech, saying that the visiting bankers "are not welcome here," and everyone lived happily ever after.

Everyone, of course, except for the millions of people whose lives continue to be devastated by ABA members.

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  Topics: News Features , Boston, Hynes Convention Center, Service Employees International Union,  More more >
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