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Wednesday, March 30, 2011
SHUTTING DOWN THE BANK OF AMERICA
by PETE TUCKER of FIGHT BACK RADIOthefightback.org
"I pay. You pay. Why doesn't B-of-A?" chanted protesters as they stood outside a suddenly closed Bank of America at 14th and Irving St, NW on Saturday. The D.C. demonstration was held in coordination with US Uncut's more than 40 other actions across the country. In London, 500,000 people took to the streets to protest U.K. officials' plans to cut more than 300,000 public sector jobs while at the same time possibly lowering corporate taxes.
Two-thirds of U.S. corporations don't pay any federal income tax, including America's largest bank. US Uncut DC organizer and spokesperson Armand Biroonak said, "Bank of America is bankrupting America... When they don't pay their fair share, just like the rest of us, then we are forced to cut $1.7 billion in early childhood education (Head Start and Title 1). In America, do we want tax cheats or teachers?"
The District of Columbia is facing a more than $320 million budget shortfall which may result in the cutting of safety net services. According to U.S. PIRG, the District loses more than $700 million a year due to corporate tax avoidance.
Just prior to US Uncut DC's action at Bank of America, Biroonak said, "[This is a] protest against Bank of America's tax avoidance. They tax dodge and put most of their profits in 115 offshore tax havens. Since 2008, they paid zero. Zero in federal income tax... Government budget estimates have said over $100 billion a year can be gained... if corporations paid their fair share of taxes and offshore tax haven loopholes that the government allows were closed down. We're protesting against budget cuts in this era of austerity."
Upon seeing the would-be protesters in the bank, a Bank of America employee pulled the fire alarm, according to Sandee Delano, a member of US Uncut DC. Delano explained why she was participating in the action: "I'm tired of being screwed by the government and by corporations. If corporations were to pay their taxes that they owe us instead of sending money offshore, we wouldn't have to make these cuts to social programs that we really, really need. I don't think people are thinking about the consequences of what's going to happen if these programs are cut. I mean there's going to be people living in boxes."
As the bank closed down, the demonstration heated up. Mark Cruce took the bullhorn and said, "The federal government and the powers that be, they are trying to balance the federal budget and the state budgets around America on the backs of poor people, disenfranchised people, because they have no voice. And the small voices that they do have, like collective bargaining and union representat[ion], they're trying to snuff out systematically and aggressively. It is going on right in front of us... and we got to stand up and we got to do something about it."
Casey, with his guitar in hand, said, "I think I have like $7 in my wallet. That's more money than [Bank of America] paid in taxes last year. That's messed up. Additionally, they've been doing some really messed up things with mortgages... I'm really an advocate of credit unions. They're not-for-profit organizations. There's no shareholders. They actually invest in Main Street, not Wall Street... I just think that Bank of America, if it's too big to fail, it's too big to exist in my opinion."
In describing the action to possible participants, US Uncut DC wrote, "We have no leaders, no structure, no support lawyers, and no network to get bail money if you are arrested." This non-hierarchical, decentralized model makes finding the one person in charge an impossible task, as police officers found out. After numerous attempts, finally a protester stepped forward and said, "You can talk to me." "Who are you?" the officer asked. "Nobody," Delano responded. Shortly afterwards, Delano reflected on the exchange: "We all are in charge. There's no leader in this movement. It's just the people. It's really cool. And I think it's going to work. I think they're going to start hearing us."