RALLY IN FRONT OF CITIBANK IN DOWNTOWN OAKLAND ENDS WITH BRANCH MANAGER CONFRONTED BY PROTESTERS
By Steven Tavares
OAKLAND – On a day when millions of Americans dread writing out large checks to the federal government, protesters across the Bay Area trained their focus on some of the richest corporations in the world failing to pay taxes through exemptions and corporate loopholes.
Over 100 people gathered Monday afternoon in Oakland in front of the Citibank branch at Broadway and 13th Street chanting “Make them pay!” and carrying placards reading “Jail the Banksters.” The rally organized by Moveon.org attracted a large number of onlookers milling about for an late afternoon break and elicited shouts of encouragement and honking horns from cars passing through downtown Oakland.
Marv Tripp of Oakland says he’s been around a long time, but has never seen wealthy interests run amok like this in his lifetime. He railed against 30 years of conservatism starting with President Reagan slowly stripping Americans of their economic well-being. “They said cutting taxes for the rich would bring prosperity and all kinds of growth,” said Tripp, who said afterwards he had never spoken in public before today. “Did that happen? No! All the spending is by the wealthy to buy our Congress.”
The statement urged one man to yell the Supreme Court has also been bought by corporate interests, while another offered trillion dollars wars in Iraq and Afghanistan backed by the wealthy against the economic interests of Americans as part of the dilemma facing the country.
Another speaker used the rising strength of the Tea Party for progressives to use as a blueprint for their causes saying it needs to be even stronger than the nascent group purported to believe in stemming the flow of taxes to fund big government in Washington. Despite the somewhat similar aims of both ideologically opposed groups, some protesters said they find adherents of the Tea Party to be easily manipulated by corporate and wealthy interests. “I call them information lite,” Tripp said of the Tea Party.
There were no visible groups or individuals offering an opposing view to the protesters who labeled 12 of the largest U.S. corporations who did not pay taxes last year the “Deadbeat Dozen.” Those include General Electric, Bank of America, Google, BP, Amazon, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Boeing, ExxonMobil, FedEx Goldman Sachs and Chase.
Similar protests against corporate “tax dodgers” occurred Monday across the country. In the Bay Area, protesters chanted similar anti-business slogan in front of the Chevron corporate headquarters in San Ramon before heading to the downtown Oakland. Many of the protesters from Oakland packed up after 3 p.m. and headed towards another rally to be held at the headquarters of Wells Fargo at Montgomery Street in San Francisco.
“Our country is not broke,” said Charles Davidson, the East Bay coordinator for Moveon.org, “but we are giving it away to corporation and letting them get away Scot-free.” He singled out General Electric for reporting over $14 billion in earnings last year without paying a single dollar in taxes. “This is the corporation that is the worst in shipping jobs overseas,” said Davidson. It was the publicizing of General Electric’s failure to pay taxes two weeks ago by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that led to outrage across the country along with a focus on other American multi-national corporations who have carved out their tax loopholes through legislation and tucking away earnings in more tax-friendly countries around the globe.
Berkeley residents Simi Litvak and Pnina Tobin attended the protest but didn’t expect becoming the afternoon’s most poignant moment when they volunteered to deliver a petition from the group to the Citibank branch manager. Litvak, wheelchair-bound, entered the bank and confronted the manager who refused to accept the documents. When she reported the manager had told them he was expecting the protesters at his door, those outside rose in hearty cheers. “
“I said to the manager, ‘You won’t even take this? You won’t even read this?’” Litvak said she attempted to engage the manager by saying “we need to take care of our children.” The manager, according to Litvak, responded by saying “I take care of my children.”
She says the manager communicated with her corporate had told him the protesters were allowed on the sidewalk, but once they entered the building, “that was my territory.” She added he said he was not interested in anything they had to say, but with a large man standing next to him, she said he was polite, nonetheless.