Last week, I wrote about a company that forced school kids to throw away their lunch because they didn’t have enough to pay. That was pretty outrageous and a lot of people were upset, chief among them the parents. Now, the company apologized and blamed an untrained cashier for the mistake and promised that it would never happen again. It was all just a big misunderstanding, you see.
But a few weeks ago in Augusta, Georgia, it was anything BUT a misunderstanding as hundreds of people were forced to watch as a bank repossessed a grocery store and then throw away all of the food:
Residents filled the parking lot with bags and baskets hoping to get some of the baby food, canned goods, noodles and other non-perishables. But a local church never came to pick up the food, as the storeowner prior to the eviction said they had arranged. By the time the people showed up for the food, what was left inside the premises—as with any eviction—came into the ownership of the property holder, SunTrust Bank.
The bank ordered the food to be loaded into dumpsters and hauled to a landfill instead of distributed. The people that gathered had to be restrained by police as they saw perfectly good food destroyed. Local Sheriff Richard Roundtree told the news “a potential for a riot was extremely high.”
Just to reiterate, we’re not talking about fresh foods that the bank might not have been comfortable letting people take, we’re talking about canned goods, dry foods, baby food, you know, the stuff you feed to hungry babies. How hard could it have been for a bank to have the people sign a “at your own risk” notice and let them have at it? Who would be endangered by handing out diapers and soap?
This is even worse than the school lunch debacle and is inexcusable. The bank is trying to blame the tenant, Il Ki Choi, for not vacating the premises until forced to do so by marshalls but that doesn’t excuse the callous nature of the disposal.
The police on the scene claimed they wanted to avoid any potential scuffles over food and in any case, they would not be free to allow the crowd to take the bank’s property without permission. On the other hand, the bank CERTAINLY could have had the workers that were dumping the stuff into a truck hand it out instead.
Why didn’t they?
The answer is as simple as it is disgusting: there was nothing in it for the bank. There was no profit to be made from letting poor people take food and other necessities. It was the bank’s property, they had no use for it so they threw it away rather than let someone else use it. It’s the perfect embodiment of the impersonal and inhuman nature of financial institutes. In a country where empty houses outnumber homeless people, the banks will happily let those houses sit empty and fall into disrepair rather than let someone stay off the streets for free.
When you hear a conservative talk about how Wall Street just needs less regulation and they’ll work to benefit society, they’re lying. When a bank or corporation has the choice, they will do nothing for free. They will help no one but themselves. They will not work for the common good but only to increase their bottom line. They will literally throw food in the garbage before letting someone else benefit without paying for it first.
If anything could possibly make it more clear that corporations and banks are not people and do not have society’s best interest in heart, this is it. There’s no percentage in compassion and we’re just numbers on a ledger to them.
Update: According to OnlineAthens.com, Thompson Building and Wrecking, the disposal company that was hired to cart the food away, has done what the bank couldn’t be bothered to do. They sorted the perishable from the non-perishable and handed it over to the Golden Harvest Food Bank who will inspect it and pass on everything they can to the public. It’s good to know that some companies are run by actual humans.