In Tampa, Progressive organizations tell Bank of America to pay their taxes

04/19/11 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

Protesters from various progressive organizations gathered yesterday in front of a Tampa Bank of America to protest tax practices that benefit large corporations. About 75 people with signs urged corporations to pay their taxes.

Yesterday was tax day which meant a lot people paid a lot of money to a financially struggling government. But protesters say Bank of America and other corporate giants weren’t among those that had to pay up. They gathered along Kennedy Blvd. in front of Bank of America Plaza and waved signs. One sign read “don’t give cuts to corps” while another accused Bank of America of not paying any taxes at all. Al Lucas, a retired democrat, said Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t agree with giving breaks to corporations while so many less fortunate suffer.

"I live on a fixed income and I'm doing okay. I have my own car, my own house and everything, but there are a lot of people that don't have even that and they need my support."

Florida has been a hot spot for demonstrations since the inauguration of Rick Scott. Groups have protested proposed cuts to education and mental health. Yesterday’s was different. It was about financial accountability. According to members of the group MoveOn, corporations have too many opportunities to skip out on paying taxes. Susan Smith represents a group called Democracy for America. She said Bank of America and other corporations aren’t doing their fair share.

"We just paid our taxes last week, my husband and I and we paid thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars because we believe in supporting this country because we take advantage of the highways and the infrastructure and the schools. We think it's only fair that people that use the services and the things that this wonderful country of ours provides, that they pay their fair share to maintain it and keep it up."

International Union of Painters and Allied Trades member Tim Maitland shared the same frustrations.

"Corporations like this that keep getting breaks from their taxes while the rest of us are carrying the burden for the country. There's not a tax problem, there's a revenue problem."

Maitland said it is unrealistic to expect Bank of America to pay taxes just because a group of protesters said so, but informing the public about what is going on will be a positive step in ending tax loopholes for corporations. But one protester was silenced by Tampa Police officers. Katharine Moseley was detained by an undercover police officer and charged with trespassing and resisting arrest without violence. Moseley said she didn’t comply with requests to leave the area at first because the officer did not identify himself adequately.

"I said I need to see your identification. He didn't produce it, wouldn't tell me his name. So I said, 'well, I don't know who you are, either." Then I started to pick up my camera and move away, he said, 'well, I'm putting you under arrest.' "

In a statement, Tampa Police Department spokesperson Andrea Davis said Moseley was warned several times to stay off of private property and that she would be arrested if she did not comply. Davis added that following Moseley’s detainment, the officer allowed her to return to the protest.

"The business asked us to monitor their property and they have a right to tell people to stay off of their property. So, in this particular case that's what we did for them. But we also have to make sure that the first amendment rights are protected. So she was told several times that she's more than welcome to utilize her rights for freedom of the speech but she needed to do it on the public property. After being warned several times she went on to the... kept going on to the private property, and that's when she was taken into custody and given a notice to appear in court. Even after that happened the officers allowed her to continue to protest but they warned her again that she had to stay off private property."

Moseley was not arrested, but will have to appear in court in regards to the charges brought against her by officers.

Previous WMNF news coverage of tax loopholes

video of Moseley's interaction with police

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