CHICAGO - Hundreds of taxpayers marked the filing deadline April 17 by delivering tax "bills" - and a message - to tax-dodging corporations and executives. The mass protest, consisting of two large rallies and four separate marches, was part a growing wave of frustration on the part of 99% families who want the rich corporations that created our current economic emergency to start paying their fair share of taxes.
Protesters gathered to call upon their elected representatives to support the Buffett Rule - The Paying a Fair Share Act, H.R.3909, S.2230, which puts an end to millionaires paying lower taxes than working people - and to close corporate tax loopholes.
The group also demanded that tax-dodging corporations and executives do the right thing, stop taking advantage of loop holes and other tax avoidance strategies and start paying their fair share of taxes.
Against the background of the Federal Plaza Post Office branch, where taxpayers were gathered to mail their returns, Lenda Mason, a homecare worker and member of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, addressed the cheering crowd.
"We can't afford to sit silently and let another tax day go by without demanding that these corporations pay us the trillions of dollars they have taken from us through tax breaks, bailouts and corporate welfare," Mason said.
As Mason spoke, protesters dressed as "99% Citizen Tax Enforcers," complete with black suits, sunglasses and logo briefcases, unfurled a long banner, to expose the amount of taxes "dodged" by the 1% since 2001. Complete with zeroes, the number, $2.15 trillion, stretched the length of a city block.
After rallying at Federal Plaza, protesters then formed four separate marches to the Exelon corporate headquarters, and retail locations of Bank of America, Verizon and BMO Harris. At each location, the "99% Citizen Tax Enforcers" were on hand to apprehended an 8-foot-tall puppet representing each company's respective CEO.
At Bank of America, retired police officer Charles Brown addressed the crowd. "I have lived in Englewood for 43 years and watched as layoffs, school closures, and program cuts have hurt hardworking men and women, forcing them to lose their homes or be evicted from their apartments while our neighborhoods beyond repair. The banks - like Bank of America - take our homes with no questions, second chances or bailouts, but we still pay our fair share of taxes because it's the right thing to do," he said.
Despite earning over $5 billion in profits since it received its federal bailout, Bank of America has not paid any federal taxes since 2008, and even received a $5 billion tax refund one year.
The four marches then converged on the Board of Trade, where all of the puppets, including the final puppet, an 8-foot-tall likeness of CME Group President Terry Duffy, were placed in a jail cell while protesters chanted "Hey you millionaires, pay your fair share."
Speaker Shani Smith asked the crowd, "Do we make a lot of money? No. But we pay our taxes. CME Group made $2 billion in profits last year, but threatened to leave the state in order to get $1 billion in tax breaks over the next ten years. We are all here today because it's tax day and time for rich corporations like CME Group to stop profiting from our suffering and pay their fair share."
Today's protest followed a series of tax "bill" deliveries by the "99% Citizen Tax Enforcers" to some of the city's biggest corporate and individual tax dodgers, including CME Group, Sears, Bank of Exelon, America, Verizon, and BMO Harris. Today's mass mobilization also featured the tax enforcers delivering oversized tax "bills," but on a much larger scale.
The protest also followed the release of a report by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, showing that 30 of the largest profitable American corporations made use of special tax loopholes in order to pay an average federal tax rate of three percent on a combined $205 billion in profits since 2008.
Amongst the most notorious tax dodgers highlighted in the report was Verizon, which received $7.7 billion in federal tax subsidies over the last four years despite earning nearly $20 billion in profits over the same period.
Photo: Tax day protest April 17, Dallas, Texas. LM Otero/AP