By Howard Dyckoff
Wearing green caps with feathers, a merry band of protesters marched ON Citibank and Wells Fargo in the crisp late afternoon air this Tuesday. Later they attended the City Council meeting and successfully urged the city to pass a measure in support of the “Robin Hood Tax” campaign. The measure passed the council unanimously.
Earlier in the day, these protesters and other volunteers held a Robin Hood Fair at City Hall near the State building at 1500 block of Clay Street.
The organizations in the Robin hood Tax coalition included ACCE, the California Nurses Association, EBASE and SEIU. They are advocating the support of state and local governments for HR 1579, which imposes a tax on financial transactions.
Jose Vargas, who help coordinate the bank march, explained that “I am here due to the injustices committed against me and my family. I got involved over 4 years ago but the fight is not over. We still have a record number of foreclosures, we still have people split apart and we still have people unemployed. We just want the banks to know that we’re here and we want to fix this problem.”
The big idea behind the Robin Hood Tax is to generate hundreds of billions of dollars from Wall Street transactions and use that as funding for jobs and to to kick start the economy. This small tax of ½ of 1% on financial transactions can gather over a hundred billion dollars each year in the US alone.
The tag line on the robinhoodtax.org web site is “It’s not a tax on the people, but a tax for the
people.” Also on the web site: “We are union members, nurses, small business owners, community organizers, faith leaders, AIDS activists, environmentalists, movie stars and musicians,” as a description of how broad supoort for the initiative is. Well-known supporters include Al Gore, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, economist Paul Volker, and David Stockman, who was President Regan’s Budget Director in the 1980s.
Citibank on Broadway was the first target of the protest and the group of over 20 Robin Hoods entered from the City Center side without incident. They began chanting to support the Robin Hood tax and also for the bank personnel to fax a demand letter to the CitiBank headquarters. Although bank security employees and officers requested that the protesters leave, they stayed, demanding that their letter be faxed and a confirmation be provided. After 15 minutes, the bank manager did exactly that and the protesters left to go to Wells Fargo, a block further down Broadway.
The protesters were less successful at Wells Fargo where only 4 or 5 gained entry while the larger group marched in a circle by the entrance. It was already after 5 pm and the Well Fargo branch was closing.
Several OPD officers engaged with the protested organizers and later offered to escort the
protesters out of the bank without restraint or arrest. After the leaving Wells Fargo, the
protesters went back to city hall and registered to speak at the City Council meeting, where the proposal passed unanimously.