(Thanks to Maureen for writing this lovely op-ed, and our interns and volunteers who organized our tax day action on 4/15. Great job everyone!)
My heroes tend to be those persons who have been willing to speak truth to the ruling elite. Many of whom have been imprisoned and/or assassinated for doing so. Such as: Socrates, Jesus, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, etc. ...
Do you think any of us would be here now -- or even want to be -- without the intelligently courageous souls who have persisted in speaking out in promoting truth and justice for all?!?
Two of these souls are living right here within our community. They are Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap and David Cobb, co-creators of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County. Please go to www.duhc to discover the efforts being put forth within this community -- and beyond -- to create a world for those of us looking to satisfy our basic needs without destroying that which sustains us.
So last month, when I received an email from Democracy Unlimited calling for an emergency community meeting, I and about 100 others took ourselves to the Labor Temple in Eureka to see what we could possibly do to help. Kaitlin led us into a stimulating community dialogue.
The next day a couple of dozen of us returned to participate in an “Artful Activism” workshop presented by Bill Moyer, who is executive director of the Backbone Campaign. This is another website to investigate how folks are finding innovative, peaceful ways to interrupt the "machine" (www.backbonecampaign.org). By the end of the day we decided on an action, to be held on April 15th (Tax Day), to expose the fact that Bank of America is a tax dodger.
We got together a few more times at Democracy Unlimited headquarters in Eureka to create an action to be performed in Bank of America lobbies in Eureka and in Arcata. Iris and Greg, Democracy Unlimited's 2011 interns, helped us condense our ideas into a three minute, eight second skit. We took some of our ideas from US Uncut, which in the past couple of months has initiated hundreds of of similar events across the country. Usuncut.org is an enormously successful grassroots movement that uses online social networking tools to coordinate direct action against corporate tax avoidance and public service cuts.
More and more of us are tuning in to the fact that two-thirds of U.S.corporations have been able to squirm their way out of paying any federal income tax whatsoever. At the same time, we are being told that we must bear devastating budget cuts that jeopardize our very lives.
It was decided that we would come into the banks wearing sandwich-board signs depicting who we were representing on the front (i.e., child, pregnant woman, student, teacher, elderly, safety personnel, etc.) while on the back we listed the facts of the billions of dollars being cut from the agencies that benefit we the people.
At noon on April 15th we boldly walked into the Bank of America at Henderson Center (and into the Bank of America in Arcata at 5 p.m.). I had volunteered to take on the role of narrator. After a big “hello,” my first sentence was, “We are here today to shine awareness on the fact that while we all pay our fair share of taxes, Bank of America -- America's largest bank and fifth-largest corporation -- pays absolutely zero in federal income tax!”
I point out that we taxpayers -- without our consent -- bestowed $45 billion dollars in bailout money on Bank of America in '08 and '09. And that they have funneled their billions of dollars of profits into foreign tax havens. I end my narrative with, “In expressing our outrage at being forced to prop up institutions who do us harm, we have decided to give our tax dollars directly to the Bank of America.”
At this point, all the others drop the pretend heavy bags of money they have been shouldering onto the bank's desks and chairs. As we are leaving I proclaim, “But don't expect any of our money next year!” And we all chant, “B of A, if you pay, it would make our day!”
We want all local bank employees to know that we feel that we are speaking for you, too, and have no wish to cause you to feel badly. At present, most of us are being held hostage within a corrupt system. Together, we can bring it down.
Because we needed to keep this action a secret, we filmed it ourselves. Be on the lookout for a video link posted on the DUHC website. I hope you will join me in further “Artful Activism.”
Maureen Kane resides in Arcata.