Chanting "we broke it, you fix it," activists who dubbed themselves "Billionaires for the Bailout" held a noisy protest on Wednesday outside major banks in Washington to deride the financial rescue bill before the US Congress.
Labor and community activists staged a bit of street theater to show disdain for the Treasury Department's proposed $700 billion financial rescue plan that was set for a vote in the Senate later on Wednesday.
Members of Jobs With Justice, a national campaign for workers' rights, took on the roles of the country's rich, saying Congress should accept the plan to bolster Wall Street to protect their lifestyles.
They waved a blank check made out to "Max Profit, CEO" while chanting, "We broke it, you fix it."
"We will say no deal to any bailout proposal that doesn't take mainstream America into account," said Carlos Jimenez, a coordinator with Jobs With Justice. "We support an economic recovery plan that actually helps the victims, not the predators and folks that have been in yachts getting rich off the rest of us."
The organization targeted Bank of America and Citibank, which expanded during the financial crisis by acquiring flagging institutions.
"We wanted to just highlight that there are institutions out there that are still making record profits that are pushing for this bailout," said one activist, Krista Hanson, who performed in a light blue gown with a sash that read "Billionaire for the Bailout."
Naomi Demsas, who works with Jobs With Justice in Los Angeles, added that if the regular working class needed a bailout, she doubted corporate America would oblige.
"We definitely agree that something needs to be done," Jimenez said. "We just completely disagree with the notion that we should give a $700 billion blank check with no strings attached to the people that brought us this mess."
The Bush administration, backed by a number of lawmakers, say the bailout is crucial to revive paralyzed credit markets.
Rick Ehrmann, a member of Jobs With Justice's local Washington, D.C., coalition, said the rescue plan needs to do more for those who have lost or are on the verge of losing their homes.
"I think there should be, as a part of the fix, a homeowners loan corporation run by the government," Ehrmann said.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)