SAN DIEGO (6/27/13)--A Bank Transfer Day proponent faces 13 years in jail and a $13,000 fine for writing anti-big bank slogans on the public sidewalks--with water soluble chalk--outside three San Diego Bank of America branches.
A trial began Tuesday for Jeff Olson, 40, who is charged with 13 counts of misdemeanor vandalism. Olson is a member of California Coast CU in San Diego, was active in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is a former staffer of a U.S. senator (The San Diego Reader June 2 and the Huffington Post June 25).
Judge Howard Shore ruled Tuesday that Olson's attorney, Tom Tosdal, is banned from "mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct or political speech during the trial," said Opposing Views.com (June 26).
Several news reports indicate that BofA officials pressured local authorities for months to arrest Olson. They reported several e-mails from one BofA official asking for progress on the case. That official had allegedly confronted Olson and another man in front of a BofA branch, accusing them of running a business outside the bank.
Olson told media he carried a homemade sign promoting Bank Transfer Day outside one branch but decided his time would be better spent at the banks, trying to convince people to ditch their banks for local credit unions. He noted that was the best way to hold executives and corporations accountable for the financial crisis.
A BofA debit card fee in 2011 triggered consumer protests against big bank fees throughout the nation, resulting in Bank Transfer Day, which promoted switching accounts to credit unions and small banks. Credit unions gained more than two million members in the months surrounding that date.
Olson allegedly chalked slogans such as "Stop big banks" and "StopBankBlight.com" in front of bank branches weekly from February to August 2012.