Cornel West joins DC reparations protest against Wells Fargo Bank

EXCLUSIVE: Unaffiliated presidential candidate Cornel West joined a group of protesters picketing in front of Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Washington, D.C., on Tuesday afternoon – bolstering their demands for reparations. 

West, who was initially running under the People’s Party banner before electing to run as an Independent, spoke to Fox News Digital after stopping by to offer support for the protesters. 

West’s interaction with the assembled demonstrators suggested he joined the protest on a short deadline, as he said he planned to travel to Harlem, New York, for another event in the afternoon.

West said reparations are a fundamental piece of his lifelong “quest for truth and justice.”

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“It’s been that way for 40 years, and we’ve had to keep track of all the financial institutions that played a role in terms of benefiting from that unbelievable, barbaric injustice,” he said of slavery. 

“So it’s a question of truth; a condition of truth, as to who was allowed to suffer,” West said, adding that demonstrations like the one on Capitol Hill are a “matter of making sure that people are responsible for their actions.”

“This is a way of putting pressure on any institution that benefited from that barbaric institution of slavery – and I’m blessed to be here with my precious brothers.”

West, a longtime professor of philosophy and other disciplines at Harvard and Princeton universities, alleged banks like Wells Fargo also benefited from post-Jim Crow injustices. He mentioned the bank’s takeover of Wachovia Bank in 2008 just before he was whisked away by security staff.

The bank – founded by Henry Wells and William Fargo in 1852 as an expediter of transactions in the New West during the California Gold Rush – has since grown nationwide and taken over other large firms like Wachovia and CoreStates.

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Wachovia, which integrated into Wells Fargo in 2008, found via a 2005 research project that two of its predecessor institutions owned slaves. Then-chairman Ken Thompson said Wachovia was “deeply saddened” by findings reported by NBC News at the time which indicted South Carolina’s defunct Bank of Charleston and the Georgia Railroad & Banking Company.

When approached, several of the protesters declined to speak with Fox News Digital, but activist Truth Bey did take a moment to discuss why she joined the picketing.

“We are trying to hold the banks accountable for being part of chattel slavery – to be point-blank, all of them were involved in chattel slavery,” Bey said.

Bey went on to claim African Americans are the only racial or ethnic group that faced injustice and have yet to receive reparatory compensation in some form. She cited Holocaust survivors and their kin in Germany, as well as Japanese internment camp prisoners in the U.S. as two groups to whom governments have attempted to make amends.

In 1942, Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order that led to the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans. 

The Japanese Claims Act of 1948 later offered loss-of-property compensation – and in 1988, a 10-year-tenured office was established within the Justice Department to handle claims for what was a tax-free, $20,000 restitution payment, according to the U.S. National Archives.

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At the protest, other demonstrators who took the bullhorn said the remnants of big banks’ alleged cooperation with or involvement in the slave trade remain “parallel to our very lives today.”

Several held signs reading, “We’re coming to get our check.” Eyewitnesses who declined to be identified claimed to have spotted someone waving a Black nationalist flag throughout the crowd of demonstrators. 

In 2012, the Obama Justice Department reached a $184.3 million fair-lending settlement with the San Francisco-based banking behemoth, over findings that African American and Hispanic borrowers were charged higher fees or wrongfully entered into subprime loans.

Requests for comment from the Washington, D.C., branch and Wells Fargo’s corporate office were not returned by press time.

Fox News Digital’s Aubrie Spady and Andrew Murray contributed to this report.

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