Protesters marched on Goldman Sachs’ headquarters in New York on Tuesday in a rally against Wall Street’s involvement in President Donald Trump’s administration.
Activists from grassroots anti-“swamp” movements Government Sachs and Resist Here railed against Goldman and JPMorgan Chase for their role in the White House’s mission to loosen federal regulations on banks.
Members of New York Communities for Change, the Working Families Party and the Hedge Clippers also protested. The demonstration was organized as a part of #ResistTrumpTuesdays, a weekly event organized by Resist Here that began in December.
Among those protesting was 31-year-old Harry Waisbren, co-founder of online video network Act.TV and an Occupy Wall Street veteran.
“Trump has just taken the [Goldman Sachs] executives, brought them into the White House, and it’s absolutely disgusting, especially considering how he won the Republican primary as well as the general election chastising the other candidates for their fealty to Wall Street,” Waisbren told CNBC.
“The idea of Occupy Wall Street, that we need a government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent, lives on. It was totally visible and strengthened throughout Bernie Sanders’ candidacy,” he added.
Marchers condemned the banks’ influence on the current administration after then-candidate Trump’s calls on the campaign trail to “drain the swamp,” or clean the federal government of corrupt influence.
Trump used the phrase time and again to signal a change from business as usual in Washington. But protesters said that very “swamp” has taken over Trump’s White House.
#ResistTrumpTuesdays organizer Nelini Stamp, 29, said Trump targeted voters who were hit hardest in the financial crisis by saying he would end government corruption.
“He said he was going to drain the swamp and all we see is that he’s filling it more and more every week,” Stamp, a member of the Working Families Party, told CNBC.
“This was never about the American people. This was never about making America great again. It was about rolling back all of the things that Americans have fought for since the financial crisis and … during the Obama administration,” she said.
Trump signed two executive orders on Friday to start the process of relaxing regulations on the financial industry.
The first order began a review of federal financial regulations including the Dodd-Frank act, a set of banking industry reforms put in place after the 2008 financial crisis in a bid to prevent another financial meltdown. The Treasury Department was tasked with determining whether existing regulation conforms to what Trump called “core principles” of his administration.
The second called for a Labor Department review of a rule requiring financial advisors to give their customers advice that is in the client’s best interest. The rule is scheduled to start on April 10.
Although the orders have not yet resulted in any concrete regulatory rollback, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., condemned Trump on Friday for issuing the orders, saying the moves were hypocritical after a populist campaign in which he vowed to “drain the swamp.”
She argued that the order targeting the fiduciary rule for financial advisors “will make it easier for investment advisors to cheat you out of your retirement savings.”
Warren said that those spearheading the Treasury Department review of financial regulations are themselves former Goldman executives: Trump Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin and the president’s top economic advisor, Gary Cohn.
Before signing the orders on Friday, Trump met with some of the country’s top CEOs, including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, to discuss tax reform, trade, immigration and regulation.
Renata Pumarol, 32, a protest organizer with New York Communities for Change, decried Trump’s Wall Street ties, telling CNBC that a regulation rollback could put the average citizen in harm’s way.
“Trump is making it easier for these bankers, for Goldman Sachs, for Chase, to keep robbing … America,” Pumarol said. “We think this is outrageous that he’s … giving (JPMorgan Chase CEO) Jamie Dimon the power to roll back Dodd-Frank, which was basically set in place to protect us.”
On Friday, Trump said “there’s nobody better” than Dimon to consult about financial regulation.
Ahead of the protest, Goldman Sachs said: “We respect every individual’s rights to assembly and free speech in accordance with laws.”
In an interview with the New York Times in January, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein brushed off the idea that his firm has any unfair influence on proceedings in Washington.
“It’s an imprimatur on our firm that we have such good people that the administration wants to hire them,” he said. “But the perception that they’ll go to Washington and then favor us is false. The reverse is true. They’ll bend over backwards to avoid that. They’re not going to serve the interests of Goldman Sachs. They have their own careers and reputations to worry about.”
JPMorgan Chase did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.