Rolling summer protests against devastating sequestration and austerity policies made their first stop in Chicago Thursday when hundreds flooded the downtown headquarters of General Electric then marched to the office of so-called progressive Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to demand corporations pay their fair share.
The boisterous protest was one of 10 sweeping U.S. cities this week, from Bangor, Maine to Los Angeles, California, organized by economic and racial justice group National People's Action. Under the banner 'Outing Corporate Evil,' these actions go after tax-dodging mega-corporations like GE and Verizon and the politicians who back their interests, to demand a people's budget based on preserving vital services, ahead of the September deadline for the federal budget.
"Today, we let corporate power and its allies in government know that we see what they're doing, and we are ready to stand up and call them out on it," Toby Chow of Fair Illinois told Common Dreams. "We think the country needs to re-prioritize investing in the common good."
Organized by NPA, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Northside Power and One Southside, the mobilization brought out people from over a dozen churches and community groups, organizers told Common Dreams.
“We’ve served Bridgeport for more than 100 years,” said Kristina Tendilla of Benton House and a leader in SOUL. “We see the need firsthand and we see how the sequestration cuts and the evisceration of the social safety net affect our community. These policies prey on people like Alice, a grandmother, who lost her daughter 2 years ago and now is the sole provider for her grandchildren. She told me she often skips meals so they will have more to eat.”
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Protesters delivered a "cease and desist" order to GE, which received $8.4 billion in federal tax breaks between 2008 and 2010, according to NPA. They then rallied at Durbin's office, waving banners, signs and a giant parachute that read, 'Which side are you on: greedy corporations or people?' While the protesters did not win a face-to-face meeting with the Senator, Durbin's staff promised a meeting at a later date.
"We targeted Durbin because he is the number two Democrat in the Senate and is really important to the budget negotiations," Chow told Common Dreams. "He has a reputation as a progressive on budget issues but is very much in line with corporate lobby groups. It is really important that he feels pressure from the left—from progressives—to stand up for real progressive issues."
Protesters vow to continue mobilizing for a people's budget and against corporations and their lobbying groups like 'Fix the Debt,' which have strong bipartisan and democratic support.
“I just graduated from DePaul and I’m waiting tables—struggling to make ends meet. My adult life is just beginning, and I am already underemployed and deeply in debt,” said Missy Rubio, a leader in the IIRON Student Network. “Meanwhile, GE and ‘Fix the Debt’ were lobbying for cuts to education just so they make an extra buck in tax breaks. I have to ask the Congress and Senator Durbin, why won’t you stand up for me?”