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Biometric Door Locks and Bulletproof Windows: How Occupy Wall Street Is Scaring the Heck out of the 1%

Are the sustained protests in Manhattan's Financial District and around the country getting to the wealthy bankers who are being targeted?

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“If there's going to be an assault on the gilded gods of the financial sector, it'll more likely be a dump of someone's emails, not a bullet through their window. And there's no biometric door lock that can stop that.”

I wrote not long ago about the connection between the Occupy movements and Anonymous, the hacker collective. The involvement of Anonymous in a movement so determinedly based in physical space is notable for the willingness of at least some activists to get offline, but it's also true that Anonymous has been willing and able to take down the Web sites of some  financial giants. While activists have shown a willingness to follow their targets offsite to protest, in today's networked world it is far more likely that attacks on their wealth would come from anti-authoritarian hackers who come from and have declared themselves solidly on the side of the 99 percent.

With the recent declaration that WikiLeaks, the site that has threatened corporate power and exposed plenty of the US government's dirty secrets, will stop publishing to focus on its money woes, it's more clear than ever that battle lines are drawn between Wall Street and the tech-activist crowd.

There's also the danger that the protests will hit bankers and the wealthy where it really hurts the most—their bottom lines. They're already on shaky ground despite the massive public bailouts of 2008--Goldman Sachs' profits are already set to drop 20 percent this year, according to  one report, and bonuses could fall by 30 to 50 percent. Of course, that still won't put them on a level with most working Americans,  half of whom make less than $26,363. (If you include the unemployed in that tabulation, it's even lower.) So executives won't get a lot of sympathy from protesters, many of whom are organizing ways to take money more directly out of bankers' pockets.

And as the "Move Your Money" movement heats up--November 5, this coming Saturday, is Move Your Money day--another psychological blow could be coming. Banks like  Bank of America have already steadily been losing customers. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism noted months ago:

But BofA in particular has been suffering a slow bleed of depositors ... as angry consumers vote with their feet, making it more dependent on market funding than before. 

Bank of America's real financial troubles come from an ever-dropping stock price due to snowballing legal troubles, but the mass withdrawal of deposits won't exactly add to their public relations problems--even if they did just announce that they're reversing their plan to hit customers with a $5 monthly fee. 

And we've already seen 24 people arrested at a Citibank branch in New York City as they attempted to withdraw their money and close their accounts. November 5 has been called a “Move Your Money” day, when activists hope that people around the country will take their deposits out of the biggest banks and move them to local banks or credit unions. Of course, these banks have trillions at their disposal, so it'll take more than just people moving their money to really change them--but adding pressure from the consumer side to mounting pressure on politicians to actually pursue accountability could have some impact. 

All this anger at the banks has employees feeling the pressure; working for the financial industry is no longer seen as a career to brag about. "There was a period where you could put on the Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs sweatshirt and wear it to the beach," Brad Hintz, a bank analyst who previously worked at Lehman Brothers, the firm whose collapse kicked off the financial crisis several years ago, told the  Chicago Tribune.

 
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