Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wells Fargo Tower (Plaza)

Wells Fargo Plaza, 2011 (Photo by Dejaren Stewart)
Wells Fargo Plaza Entrance Walkway (Photo by Dejaren Stewart)
100 West Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85003

The Wells Fargo Tower, also referred to as the Wells Fargo Plaza, is a skyscraper located in Phoenix, Arizona at 100 West Washington Street. The building was opened October 25, 1971, but it was originally a First National Bank Plaza. One major area of notoriety for this building is the controversial protests by Phoenix citizens due to one of the offices being used by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The reason many people dislike him is because of his often racially motivated methods of arrest and treatment of people in his custody. In one case, a drifter named Jefferson Davis McGee was arrested under suspicion of the rape and murder of an 8 year old girl. McGee was not guilty of this crime, or any other, but was arrested and intentionally put in the general population of a maximum security prison. Accused child molesters are usually kept separate because other inmates can inform on or assault the prisoner. This was the exact intention. An example of this is when a community group called Puente, which is Spanish for bridge, announced that they would hold protests in front of the Wells Fargo Plaza on every weekday between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. The intention of these protests was to convince Wells Fargo to have Arpaio’s office vacated. After a number of protests like this, Joe Arpaio was eventually forced to leave his office in 2010. He had started renting the space in 1998 and was set to occupy it through 2013. Unfortunately for supporters of the protest, even though he was evicted early, Arpaio received $360,000 from Maricopa County to move his staff. This situation is just one in which Wells Fargo as a company has become involved in racially motivated debates. Wells Fargo is one of the largest investors in Geo Group, Inc., which is the second largest private prison company in the world. Along with accepting contracts from various government agencies, the company also pushes for stricter rules for the enforcement of immigration. As a result, when Wells Fargo began to financially support them, many American citizens were outraged. For example, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Center, a detention facility in Tacoma, Washington, is known by nearby residents to hold its detainees without rights to the point where people have compared it to a concentration camp. This center is owned by Geo Group and is therefore indirectly sponsored by Wells Fargo. As a result, many Wells Fargo buildings have been vandalized by supporters of the Smash ICE movement, a social movement meant to push for change in the center’s policies.

- Brandon Lev and Dejaren Stewart


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