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(Updates with Wells Fargo comment in seventh paragraph.)
Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- At least 18 people were arrested in San Francisco as Occupy protesters, taking aim at what they called Wall Street West, attempted to shut down Wells Fargo & Co.’s headquarters in the financial district.
Demonstrators shouting “Give us our money back!” surrounded the bank’s offices and chained themselves to the doors. Others converged on a federal courthouse to protest a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that corporations have the same rights as individuals to spend money on political campaigns.
The activists “demand that banks end predatory evictions and foreclosures and that corporations lose the rights of personhood,” they said in a statement.
The protests marked the largest return to the streets by the Occupy San Francisco movement since police dismantled its tent camp near the Federal Reserve Bank last month.
“They were given numerous warnings and opportunity to stop blocking those exits and to leave,” Sergeant Michael Andraychak, a police spokesman, said of the arrests at Wells Fargo. “There was concern for a safety hazard for people would not be able to exit the building in case of an emergency.”
The arrests were made at the request of a Wells Fargo representative, according to police Lieutenant Liam Frost.
Wells Fargo acted “to protect the safety of our team members and customers,” spokesman Ruben Pulido said in a statement. “Wells Fargo continues to be a responsible corporate citizen and assists those facing financial hardships.”
About 250 peaceful protesters gathered outside the U.S. Court of Appeals, said David Madden, a court spokesman. He said a court official planned to step outside to accept a proposed constitutional amendment from the leaders of the demonstration. The proposal seeks to overturn the Supreme Court’s so-called Citizens United decision that made it easier for corporations and unions to spend money in political campaigns.
The protest was echoed in Chicago, where between 40 and 50 people, some bearing signs reading “Overturn Citizens United,” demonstrated outside the federal office building and courthouse amid falling snow and sub-freezing temperatures.
“The Supreme Court said corporations are people and that money is speech,” Lora Chamberlain, a Chicago physician, said in an interview. “We disagree.” The high court made a bad decision from which it should retreat, she said.
Other demonstrations were planned at the San Francisco offices of Bechtel Group Inc., Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Fannie Mae, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center, and California Governor Jerry Brown.
Occupy protests across the U.S. have highlighted the plight of Americans who have suffered from home foreclosures and soaring unemployment while the largest U.S. banks have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis.
Wells Fargo rose 1.29 percent to $30.54 in New York. The stock is up 10.8 percent this year.
--With assistance from Karen Gullo in San Francisco and Andrew Harris in Chicago. Editors: Pete Young, Michael Hytha
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