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In this story I mentioned the protest at three downtown banks that Mick Pattinson and some friends held yesterday. (Their organization is the Building Industry Coalition for Economic Recovery.)

I headed down with Sam Hodgson yesterday morning to check out the protest’s first stop at Bank of America. There were about three dozen people carrying signs. It was pretty quiet, save an occasional outburst of “Banks behaving badly!” There were at least five police officers along with them, two cars and three motorcycles.

One sign, ostensibly toted by an out-of-work subcontractor, read “PAY THE SUBS.” Another estimated the human fallout of the nationwide construction slowdown: “3 million construction jobs lost.” One wanted to know, “Where is the money going?” A man summed up his judgment of the situation: “Banks win again.” And someone played off the credit card commercial with a simple statement: “Back to work: Priceless.”

After I’d spoken to Mick Pattinson of Barratt American, I turned to the man standing with him, Tom Dobron. He is president and CEO of Innovative Communities, a homebuilder based in Escondido. He said City National Bank stopped negotiating with him last year and he was forced to halt construction and lay off workers.

“It was the worst day of my life for me,” he said. “I not only was laying off people who had worked with me for 15 years, I laid off my three sons, my son-in-law and my brother-in-law.”

Dobron talked about the “trickle-down” effect that he expected to result if banks start lending to builders again.

“It’s not just about us,” he said, gesturing to the people holding signs around him.

KELLY BENNETT

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