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"Occupy" Protestors Face Wells Fargo CEO

The head of Wells Fargo Bank addressed a crowd at N-C State University yesterday.   But there was a break in the script once protesters from the “occupy” movement interrupted the speech and were eventually escorted out.

It was no secret – the scheduled speech by Wells Fargo C-E-O John Stumpf would definitely be interrupted.  The only question was WHEN.  Stumpf opened his speech at N-C State’s Poole College of Management joking about the emails he received from students inviting him out after the talk.

John Stumpf:  "I don’t know where the East Village Bar and Grill is, but I was offered drinks and things, probably didn’t know I was married but you made me great offers (laughs)."

Stumpf would talk Wolfpack Basketball and Football praising N-C State for having a student body that knows how to win, have fun, work hard and keep the spirit.  He told students he also knows how to pull an all-nighter – recalling what it took to negotiate one of the largest mergers in U-S history – when Wells Fargo acquired North Carolina-based Wachovia in 2008.

John Stumpf:  "Today, Wells Fargo is the 12th largest employer in the country.  We employ 1 in 500 Americans, working Americans works for Wells Fargo.  We do business with 1 in 3 Americans, we have 70-million accounts."

Stumpf was wrapping up his comments about the down economy and the need to save it by focusing on small business when silent “occupiers” began to get rowdy.

Occupy Demonstrators:  "Mic check! Mic check! John Stumpf!  We won’t take your home. But we will take a minute of your time"
The chant continued – “Your leadership has led to the death of the American Dream and that Wells Fargo was guilty of widespread predatory lending.  

Ira Weiss:  "I must inform all of you that you are in violation of university policy.  I must ask you all at this point to cease and desist.  Please sit down and stop talking.  I will now ask the people to escort you out of the auditorium so we can continue with the lecture. Thank you."

Ira Weiss is Dean of the Poole College of Management at N-C State.  He worked hard to keep his composure.

Ira Weiss:  "You are interrupting our speaker and you are taking away from the students of Poole College at North Carolina State University.  Your voices will no longer be heard here in this auditorium and now it is time for you to cease and desist and leave the auditorium." (applause)
The “occupy” protestors, which included members of Occupy Raleigh, Occupy N-C State and others – were drowned out by applause as they were forced to leave the auditorium.  Stumpf continued his speech.

John Stumpf:  "And I want to hear from the students, and if I can just make a couple of quick comments.  I think this is about confidence in the country and I surely get the anger and the disappointment and frustration people are feeling.  This is real."

Phil Liuzzo is a senior Business Administration major at N-C State. He was one of the people who applauded when the protestors were escorted out of the room.

Phil Liuzzo:  "There was no real message, they were screaming so we couldn’t hear what they were saying. They didn’t do it in the respectful way, where they took time away from his speech.  We take time out of our day to come listen to him and has to deal with this kind of stuff. It really wasn’t fair to us."

Jeremy Sprinkle spent most of his time walking the sidewalk outside the auditorium. He works for the North Carolina AFL-CIO and carried this poster.

Jeremy Sprinkle:  "It says America wants to work, good jobs now, AFL-CIO. That’s a message I think a lot of people can get behind."

Sprinkle says Stumpf and Wells Fargo are prime examples of Wall Street greed.

Jeremy Sprinkle:  "Wells Fargo is responsible for a lot of foreclosures a lot of misery right now and for the CEO of Wells Fargo to come to NC State to lecture students about how swell things are in the financial services industry seems inappropriate."

The C-E-O was greeted by a similar crowed earlier yesterday in Winston-Salem.

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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