Protesters ‘Occupy’ Downtown in rage over corporate tax breaks

Protesters ‘Occupy’ Downtown in rage over corporate tax breaks
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Occupy Wall Street protesters — some in costume — hit Downtown on Thursday, rallying outside JP Morgan Chase’s offices to condemn tax breaks that gave the wealthy bank hundreds of millions in subsidies even though the company did not retain the thousands of jobs it promised.

“Deliver your promises or give us our money back,” said organizer Kristi Barnes, one of three-dozen protesters who cited a decades-old deal with the state’s Industrial Development Agency that created $237 million in tax breaks to retain 5,000 jobs by 2013.

Fewer than a third have been kept, protesters said.

“It’s an egregious example of a large corporate giveaway,” said Bettina Damiani. “This is just a microcosm of a bigger problem.”

Nearby, protesters chanted, “Good jobs are what we need! We don’t need no corporate greed!”

One man, Austin Guest, donned a walrus mustache and top hat — and toted a cartoonish bag of money — to satirize the greedy bankers.

“I can’t help notice all you rabble rousers are a little confuddled about my bank,” he said. “But, please, just shoo!”

Activists allied with Occupy Wall Street picketed the Chase building in the Metrotech Center on Thursday to complain that the bank got tax breaks but did not retain jobs in New York City.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Other protesters handed fake “past due notices” to executives leaving the building, asking them to pay back what they “owe the people.”

Executives did not acknowledge the protesters, though some security guards laughed.

JP Morgan Chase spokesman Michael Fusco said that the agreement cited by protesters was dropped and renewed in 2004. He said the company is now required to have only 2,500 full-time employees and recently hired 800.

“We’re in compliance with the city and remain in good standing with IDA,” he said.

Protesters disagreed.

“We’re working people here in Brooklyn,” said George Finley, who wore pins with slogans and waved a sign. “And this is almost criminal.”

It’s not the first time that the Occupy Wall Street movement has hit Brooklyn. More than 100 protesters and elected officials gathered in Grand Army Plaza last month to rally for economic justice.

Activist Nathalie Allegri tried to hand over a list of demands, but never got inside the Chase building.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505. You can also follow her Tweets at twitter.com/#!/inkonthepad.