By JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Protesters upset with corporate tax breaks marked Monday’s tax filing deadline by staging a demonstration outside the Bank of America branch in downtown Santa Rosa.
The noon rally was part of a nationwide series of protests organized by MoveOn, a liberal advocacy group. A similar demonstration was scheduled Monday evening at the Bank of America branch in Sonoma.
Participants said they wanted to draw attention to corporations that avoid paying taxes at a time when all levels of government are making painful budget cuts.
“I pay, you pay, why doesn’t B of A?” declared a sign waved by Sammy Nasr, 64, a retired printer from Sebastopol.
Nasr and other demonstrators briefly stormed into the bank’s lobby and presented the manager with an invoice for about $3 billion, the amount they say Bank of America should have paid in taxes.
“Things are unbalanced, and they’re not going to change because CEOs decide to change,” said Santa Rosa nurse Gail Simons, 62. She held a blue umbrella with a bumper sticker stating “Take back the wealth.”
Kristina Marguglio, who manages the Bank of America branch, said she wasn’t supposed to comment about the protest.
“It was pretty disruptive,” she said.
The bank didn’t pay income taxes for the 2010 calendar year because it reported a $4.5 billion loss, bank spokeswoman Colleen Haggerty said. However the bank paid $2 billion in payroll, property, sales, state and local taxes, she said.
“They have the right to their opinions but the facts are that in 2010 Bank of America paid over $2 billion in taxes last year,” Haggerty said.
The “Make Them Pay” demonstrations were promoted on the websites of MoveOn and the Sonoma County Democratic Party and spread through email lists.
The MoveOn website listed more than 300 events across the country Monday targeting General Electric, Google, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and other major corporations. It claims the companies are using loopholes in the tax code to avoid paying their fair share.
“It shows people are aware,” said Myrna Spiegler, 68, a retired Sonoma County employee who participated in the Santa Rosa demonstration.
Spiegler said she filed for a tax extension but expects to owe money when she files later in the spring. She is upset with the concentration of wealth in America.
“I’m willing to pay (taxes) but I think it’s really unfair that 1 percent controls all the wealth,” Spiegler said.