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Grand Rapids Activist takes part in GE Protest in Detroit

April 27, 2012

On Wednesday, Grand Rapids Activist and IWW member Danny  went to Detroit to participate in the protest against General Electric at their annual shareholders meeting.

Yesterday, on the Common Dreams blog staff wrote:

“Hundreds of protesters affiliated with the “99 Percent” movement disrupted the start of General Electric Co’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Detroit on Wednesday, in an attack on the largest U.S. conglomerate’s low tax rate.

Outside Detroit’s Renaissance Center, thousands more demonstrators swarmed the area, chanting “This is What Democracy Looks Like.” They were surrounded by dozens of police, including three mounted units.

A 2011 report by think tank Citizens for Tax Justice reported that GE had an effective negative tax rate from 2008 through 2010. CTJ’s summary of GE’s federal income taxes over the past decade shows that:

  • From 2006 to 2011, GE’s net federal income taxes were negative $3.1 billion, despite $38.2 billion in pretax U.S. profits over the six years.
  •  Over the past decade, GE’s effective federal income tax rate on its $81.2 billion in pretax U.S. profits has been at most 1.8 percent.

General Electric’s CEO Jeff Immelt, a Republican who is one of President Barack Obama’s key allies from corporate America and heads up Obama’s Job Council, has called for U.S. tax “reform” that would lower the 35 percent statutory corporate tax rate.”

In a communiqué with the GR branch of the IWW, Danny stated the following:

I went to the protest in Detroit against GE. It was taking place around their shareholder meeting in the tall GM building next to the river. The event was apparently organized primarily by Good Jobs Now, but both the attendance and messaging was great and very diverse. I’d say no one organization led the event. Probably as a result of this, I’d also say the event was successful in many ways.

Despite having only twelve people on the Facebook event page say they’re attending, many, many more than that showed up. It was a massive presence, possibly a thousand or more. Many of the people there were extremely energetic, both in their chants and even literally hopping around in excitement. Once we started the march from Hart Plaza, following a walk along the river, and pretty much immediately when we reached the road between the building and the river, we took to the street. We spent a while there, watching the police slowly try to clear the street, even getting a couple horses. For the most part, however, people held the line.

Eventually, I spotted some people up in the balconies inside the building, with their fists raised. I wasn’t certain what was going on in there until much later in the day.

What I was told by a fellow worker who participated inside was this: During the meeting, a couple pastors stood up and started speaking or chanting. When they began to be pulled from the meeting, somewhere between a couple dozen to a hundred people stood up and chanted for GE to pay its share, etc. Despite many of the protesting shareholders being there due to having worked at the company, there were at least a few smug capitalists who retorted with the classic, “get a job.” As those people were being pulled from their meeting, employees, retirees, etc. seemed to be coming into the meeting attracted by the protests faster than people were being pulled out. After being forced out of the meeting, they chanted loudly as they made their way down the stairs of the building. When they reached the bottom, they were applauded, and possibly spoke, but I couldn’t hear anything any particular individual said (nobody bothered to use the human mic at any point in the day) and didn’t applaud because I had no idea who or what we were applauding at the time.

We then went around the building, between it and its parking complex, still holding the entire street. People were in the balconies alongside the building, and in the crosswalks, but these may well have just been onlookers. Reaching the downtown-Detroit-facing side of the building, we filled the driveway in front of the building and stayed there for a while. Once I reached the other corner, I looked back to see people still turning the last one.

Then we took the street again. This time, it wasn’t a side street. We completely blocked both sides of East Jefferson Ave, at the segment that intersects I-375 and M-10 in front of the GM building. Maps tell me this is a pretty significant part of Detroit vehicle traffic. I’m not sure, but we may also have blocked traffic through the

Detroit-Windsor tunnel. We held the streets for a long time, very slowly advancing until we reached the intersection back near Hart Plaza.

After the events, I listened to a bit of the pathetic-as-always coverage in the media. They seemed to have not the slightest idea of the message or even the scale of the protest. I heard that the police had gotten a 10% pay cut that week and so weren’t likely looking to arrest anyone for protests about the economy. I did, however, hear

that a couple people were arrested inside the building, though none outside. I also heard that the UAW pulled out at the last minute. They apparently released a statement to the effect that they don’t want to upset any employers or politicians’. I’m tempted to write an article about that, titled, “UAW Calls It Quits!”

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