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New Mexicans taking part in ‘Bank Transfer Day’

In three weeks, the Wall Street protest movement hopes to implement a November 5th walkout, the effects of which could have a far greater impact than months of sit-ins and protests. Being billed as Bank Transfer Day, and as of two weeks ago having attracted 14,000 RSVPs via Facebook to the national event, the campaign is urging Americans to close their accounts at large banks and move their money to credit unions.

In reality it’s a phenomenon that’s already in motion. Many credit unions around the country have seen an uptick in the opening of accounts. Laura Cowan, a spokesperson with the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, whose membership already stands at 150,000, said that in recent weeks, “We have definitely seen a rise in the number of accounts being opened.”

New Mexico currently has 49 credit unions, serving about 650,000 members whose deposits totaled $6.8 billion at the end of 2010. Sylvia Lyon, president and CEO of the trade association Credit Union Association of New Mexico, confirmed that even lacking solid data about the rise in credit union membership, credit union CEOs throughout the state acknowledge a surge in interest.

That trend extends nationwide, with citizens upset over the recently announced charges for debit card usage moving over to credit unions in droves. The Credit Union of Atlanta, for example, has seen a seven percent increase in membership as of this past week. In Colorado, Pamela White wrote in the Boulder Weekly just yesterday that the key to to the phenomenon “is refusing to interact with Wall Street, shopping locally, eating locally, buying only what you can afford with cash, taking your money out of banks, annuities and mutual funds and depositing it in a credit union.”

The idea for Bank Transfer Day was started by 27-year-old Los Angeles art-gallery owner Kristen Christian. He told The Village Voice that while she’s not affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, she and they support one another.

Christian, who says she’s switching from Bank of America to the First Entertainment Credit Union, explained that “this is literally a private citizen who had enough. In terms of what you are going to accomplish with a sign, standing on the sidewalk — you can’t just sit in a public street until you get your way. This is taking direct action, saying OK, we’ve had enough. . . . The straw that broke the camel’s back was the info that the banks had made donations to the NYPD prior to the police abusing Occupy Wall Street protesters. I believe it was Chase, but regardless, their behaviors are all so similar, it was sickening.”

As for the date, Christian chose November 5 because of its association with Guy Fawkes, the 17th-century British folk hero who in 1605 tried to blow up the House of Lords.

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