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Occupy movement targets Wells Fargo meeting in San Francisco

George Goehl, executive director of National People's Action, talks with MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan from San Francisco, where he was arrested for participating in a sit-in outside of the Wells Fargo shareholder's meeting.

Several hundred protesters marched to the Wells Fargo Bank headquarters Tuesday in San Francisco and about 30 managed to gain access to the company's annual shareholder meeting and disrupt proceedings, San Francisco Gate reported. About a dozen were escorted out of the 15th floor meeting by police.

Police in riot gear arrested six people involved in the protest, which focused anger on foreclosures, high executive compensation and low corporate taxes, Reuters reported.

Demonstrators carried a huge inflated rat with dollar bills coming from side pockets, and held signs that read: "99 percent take over, topple the 1 percent" — referring to the majority of the U.S. population and the 1 percent who make up the wealthiest Americans.


The demonstration is part of an attempt to revive the Occupy movement — though most protesters are no longer focused on occupation of public sites after being evicted from many encampments in the fall and winter.

The movement has been broadly focused on economic inequity, corporate greed and money-driven politics, and it plans more protests in the coming weeks, including against other large companies and the nation's massive student debt.

Christie Smith / nbcbayarea.com

Protesters accuse Wells Fargo Bank of predatory lending and other practices that caused the financial crisis, during a protest on April 24.

"A tax dodger and predatory lender, Wells Fargo Bank has corrupted democracy by quadrupling spending on lobbying since they helped cause the financial crisis," according to the web site for Occupy Wall Street, which advertised the event.

Police were stationed around the Merchant’s Exchange Building in the financial district in advance of the 1 p.m. meeting. Bank stockholders were asked to show certificates or other proof of ownership before being shepherded through the gates, The Associated Press reported.

Activists said that 30 shareholders who are protesters had entered the session, and intended to ask bank leaders for policy changes, including halting foreclosure proceedings against homeowners, San Francisco Gate reported.

The Occupy Wall Street web site lays out complaints against Wells Fargo, calling it "America’s biggest tax dodger" and blasting its continued foreclosures "on families in an economy it helped to ruin."

The Occupy movement has staged numerous past protests against Wells Fargo. In February protesters delivered a mock foreclosure notice to the Russian Hill home of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. In Minneapolis in November, they turned up to protest Stumpf when he was scheduled for a speaking event.  

Stumpf told the crowd in the Minnesota city that he "gets" the frustration of the anti-Wall Street movement, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and called for unity of the nation's political parties, as well as "the 1 percent and the 99 percent," to get through economic hard times.

Wells Fargo did not immediately return calls from msnbc.com seeking comment.

However, the company issued a statement in reaction to the protest, NBC Bay Area reported:

"Wells Fargo has helped more than 740,000 customers with loan modifications, and has forgiven $4.1 billion in principal since 2009," it said. "The unfortunate reality is that some customers are in homes they cannot afford, even with substantially reduced payments. ... When people are 60 days or longer past due, and they decide to work with us, we are able to provide an option that prevents foreclosure for 7 out of 10. Over the past year, less than 2 percent of owner-occupied loans in our servicing portfolio have resulted in foreclosures."

According to the bank's web site, Wells Fargo ranked fourth-largest among U.S. banks in terms of assets $1.3 trillion and first in market value of its stock as of Dec. 31.

Around the country, similar protests are planned to target major banks and other companies.

A group called 99% Power, an offshoot of the Occupy movement, said it plans actions at dozens of shareholder meetings, starting with Wells Fargo, and then on Wednesday at General Electric Co.s shareholder meeting in Detroit.

On campuses, activists are launching an "Occupy Student Debt" campaign, described as "a collective strategy of non-violent direct action to take back higher education and end our complicity with a predatory and unjust system."  

Occupy groups across the country also plan events for what they call an Occupy General Strike Day on May 1 to demand economic justice, during which they advocate "no work, no school, no housework, don't bank, don't buy."

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