CHICAGO (CBS) -- Five women – the eldest 80 years old – were arrested Tuesday afternoon for dumping garbage in front of the Bank of America Chicago offices downtown in a protest.
The women were protesting over the buildup of trash at vacant buildings in Chicago, which were foreclosed and are now held by Bank of America.
They dumped the garbage in bags in front of the Bank of America building at 135 S. LaSalle St.
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The protesters, from the group Action Now, point to the city's new Vacant Property Ordinance, which holds banks responsible for securing and boarding up their vacant, foreclosed properties got the lenders to pay attention.
"Since Bank of America will not go to Chicago's neighborhoods and clean-up their vacant properties, Action Now members are bringing the neighborhood destruction to the bank," the group said in a news release.
The women cleaned up a vacant property at 3328 W. Monroe St. in the East Garfield Park neighborhood, and dropped off the trash at the bank, while others marched outside and held signs.
The action led to the arrests of five women – Gloria Washington, 80; Annie Harris, 76; Doris Strickland, 68; Madeline Talbott, 61; and Donna Roberts, 56, the group said.
"The well-being of customers and employees is our number one concern, and numerous steps have been taken to ensure their safety. There were no injuries as a result of today's actions," Bank of America officials said in a prepared statement Tuesday afternoon. "As a general rule, if an individual or group is on bank property and does not have any bank business, they may be asked to leave. This is especially true if customers or employees feel intimidated or threatened. In certain instances, we will reach out to local law enforcement for their assistance as was the case today."
Information from police was not immediately available.
Action Now said the women were taken to the lockup at the Central District police station.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration recently drafted a new version of the Vacant Property Ordinance, with what sponsor Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) says better delineates the responsibilities of the banks.
The original ordinance introduced a legal definition of a "mortgagee" – a bank or other entity that holds a mortgage on a property – as a property owner that is required to handle routine maintenance.
This meant the banks would be responsible for such actions as boarding up entrances, responding to complaints about a building, and keeping the lawn mowed and the snow shoveled.
Through the course of last year, the Department of Buildings had to tear down or board up more than 500 buildings, which accounted for $13.7 million in expenses. The Department of Streets and Sanitation also had to perform upkeep on 1,963 vacant buildings and tear down 345 empty garages, at a cost of $1.8 million.
Mayor Emanuel is hoping for eventual statewide legislation.
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