Iowa City activists: Big banks ‘Trashed our economy’

BY IAN SCHMIT | JUNE 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Wells Fargo Bank took billions in bailout money, is partially responsible for the economic recession, and could still be evading state taxes, protesters claimed Thursday.

These accusations were thrown across the Ped Mall Thursday afternoon as more than 60 protesters marched from the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., to the Wells Fargo Bank, 112 S. Dubuque St. Members of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the local 199 chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), shouted, “WELLS FARGO YOU’RE THE WORST, TIME TO PUT THE PEOPLE FIRST!” and “BIG BANKS, THEY’RE NO GOOD! PEOPLE NEED A ROBIN HOOD!” as members of the Iowa City Police Department stood outside the doors of the bank.

“They trashed our economy and now they’re trying to blame us,” said Adam Mason, one of the protest marchers.

The event was part of the campaign, “Fight for a Fair Economy — Make Wall Street Pay,” which is sponsored by the two groups. It aims to close corporate tax loopholes and stop budget cuts that hurt public services, according to the organizations.

“We don’t need to cut vital services if Wells Fargo and other corporations would pay their fair share,” said Bryson Dean, a retired physical therapist and member of Citizens for Community Improvement. “We know Wells Fargo doesn’t pay its federal taxes and we bet they don’t pay their state taxes.”

This event was the first of its kind held by the two groups.

As part of the march the group delivered a letter to the local Wells Fargo bank to be sent to Scott Johnson, the Iowa/Illinois Regional President, demanding that the bank disclose its state tax returns to the public and have a meeting with the community campaign within 30 days.

“[Corporate tax returns] are not something we disclose at the state level,” Angie Kaipust a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo in Iowa, told The Daily Iowan. “Wells Fargo is a responsible corporate citizen and we fulfill our obligations to local and state communities. We have paid more than $30 billion in income taxes over the last ten years. We have paid billions at that same time in other taxes such as real estate and payroll taxes.”

The group also marched into the Iowa City office of Congressman Dave Loebsack and delivered a white paper of evidence against Wells Fargo. The group thanked Loebsack’s office for support and requested a meeting with the Congressman. They also hoped for a future public town hall meeting.

David Leshtz, aide to Dave Loebsack, said there would be many chances for a public forum, though he could not promise Loebsack would sponsor a town hall meeting. When preparing for the march the group also shared stories of how the economic recession and proposed state budget cuts have and would affect their lives.

John Eivins, a staff nurse at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and SEIU member, said he was very concerned with federal and state budget cuts.

“These cuts affect my patients and how we care for them,” he said. “We’re expected to do more with less and this is not how I was trained to practice nursing.”

Dick Greenwood, a Citizens for Community Improvement member, had simpler words.

“Make em’ pay, Make em’ pay,” he said. “People before profits.”

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