Footage from the Event “Co-ops Democratizing the New Economy: Perspectives from Vermont and Mexico”

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#BlazeFAILS: The Free Speech Fight for the Future of Bank Transfer Day

Since first coming to understand the implications of the credit union model during the 2008 BTD MaskFinancial Crisis, I’ve been firmly convinced that promoting a mass consumer migration to cooperative finance is one of the most effective tactics for realistically challenging the political and economic hegemony of the Too Big To Fail Banks. As such, I was incredibly excited when, at the peak of the Occupy Movement’s influence in October 2011, movement energy coalesced around the idea of “Bank Transfer Day.” With an unpopular Bank of America fee adding fuel to the fire, the call went out for people to withdraw their deposits en masse from the Too Big To Fail banks and deposit them in credit unions on November 5th, in a nod the the date of the revolution in “V For Vendetta.”

The spark was provided by a Facebook event created by Los Angeles art-gallery owner Kristen Christian that spread virally through the then rapidly-growing Occupy social media networks. Within days, tens of thousands of people had RSVP’d to the event, and working groups affiliated with Occupy General Assemblies in cities around the world began working to promote participation and to plan activities in their communities (examples from Portland, L.A., and Vermont). As a result of that strenuous organizing work, hundreds of thousands of people moved their resources into the cooperative financial system in the fall of 2011.

However, as widespread and diverse groups threw themselves into getting ready for the big day, troubling signs began to emerge from the center. As the creator of the event that went viral, Kristen Christian was the natural point of contact for the media, and she soon parleyed that role into becoming the sole, self-appointed spokesperson for the movement who gave numerous interviews to the media. By using that position of power to quickly disaffiliate Bank Transfer Day from the Occupy Movement (with its commitment to democratic processes and rotating spokespeople), she was able to avoid any expectations of accountability to the community of Bank Transfer Day activists. Continue reading