CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Six protestors were arrested by Charlotte police when they tried to enter the annual shareholders meeting at Bank of America's headquarters Wednesday.
Police have moved in on protestors along College Street in uptown Charlotte in an attempt to maintain control as hundreds of people converged uptown to protest the nation's second largest bank and its practices.
WBTV's Kristen Hampton reports that protesters are pouring into the streets shutting down traffic at College and 5th Streets. They were becoming increasingly hostile toward police, Hampton says, but seemed to subside a bit when they all sat down in the middle of the street.
Keenan Altic, 27, Matthew Pence, 34, Johnny Rosa, 49, Steven Norris, 68, Gregory Yost, 45, and Scottie Wingfield, 36, were all arrested.
Five were charged with second degree trespassing when they tried to jump a barricade and enter the shareholders meeting.
Wingfield was charged with impeding traffic.
Protesters were heaviest along College Street between 5th and 6th Streets. Police estimate between 400-500 protestors were marching uptown.
"We believe the message is being heard, we ARE the 99% and we want to take back our country," said protester Emma Ladson from Miami, Florida. "The greedy banks are taking our homes and evicting people and throwing them into the streets. We want to say 'Stop the Greed now, Bank of America, stop the greed now!'"
WBTV spoke to an older female protester who said this was her first protest.
"All we can do is what we do. At least I'm not sitting at home, watching this on tv," she told WBTV. "That's a new thing for me, so at my age - if I can come out, you can come out too."
A college student from UNC-Chapel Hill told us that he thinks there need to be more protests like the one that happened Wednesday.
"I think its effective, I think we need a bunch of these events to let them know we're watching. They can't just make all these decisions that hurt the environment, hurt homeowners, without us being here," he said. "We need to let them know that they need to pay attention to us."
It didn't take long for the group to grow in number as more protesters were brought in on buses. Tuesday, protester Bridgette Flaherty said "So far we know we have buses from Asheville, Durham, Raleigh, Wilmington, Greensboro, and Chapel Hill." Flaherty was one of the first protesters to arrive in Charlotte.
"What we're going to have tomorrow is the 99 percent in one corner, and Brian Big Banks Moynihan in the other," said Flaherty, "and we're demanding justice for homeowners, for the planet, and really getting corporate money out of politics."
The boxing glove Bank of America protesters will use Wednesday as a symbol only seems natural, since they're calling it the fight of their lives.
WBTV spoke to a woman at the protest from Miami, Florida.
Trinese Martin said that she traveled to come to the protest, because she is a victim of Bank of America's policies. She says her home was foreclosed on.
"People in the inner-city, people of color, are also losing their houses to foreclosure. In most of the parts, in the inner-city, there are a lot of houses that when you walk down the city block - six houses is condemn and owned by Bank of America," Martin told WBTV. "There's a lot of debris. Bank of America has taken a lot of the inner-city homes, including mine.
Martin says her mortgage started at one thing, but then it went higher where she couldn't afford it.
Then, she says, she was met with silence.
"They wouldn't talk to me at all. Actually, I'm a shareholder of Bank of America. I went into that meeting, but I couldn't get in. The date that I bought the shares was too late for me to be able to go into the meeting," she told WBTV. "They turned me away, 'cause I was gonna go in there and tell them to give me my house back."
When bank executives and shareholders arrived for Bank of America's annual meeting, they were met with signs, a slew of dramatic symbols, and what looks to be the most organized protest at BofA in Charlotte so far.
"What we're doing at this point in time is like they did in the Civil Rights movement back in the '60s, like they did with Occupy - when the people speak out, when they come together, they can be heard," Ladson told WBTV. "The 99% can be heard and we are being heard around the country and around the world."
Inside the shareholders meeting, WBTV's Melissa Hankins reports a heavy security and police presence.
BofA CEO Brian Moynihan in a letter to shareholders said the company has emerged "as a stronger, more straightforward company, we are building deeper relationships with our customers and clients, and are doing what we can to help restore confidence and strength to our economy."
Bank of America's shareholder meeting started at 10 a.m.