Bailout foes hold day of protests

Grassroots groups and online activists rally against the proposed taxpayer rescue of Wall Street.

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By Ben Rooney, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- The public backlash against the Bush administration's proposal to use tax dollars to bailout Wall Street spilled into the streets Thursday.

"People all over the country are up in arms about this," said David Elliot, a spokesman for grassroots advocacy group UsAction. "Our members are livid, and they're hitting the streets.", an online forum for activists, said its members had organized 251 events in more than 41 states to protest the bailout.

Several other grassroots organizations were involved in the protests, including Democracy for America, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn) and labor unions.

A rally organized by the New York Central Labor Council took place this afternoon on Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange. That was followed by a more informal protest that began to take shape on Wall Street shortly after the financial markets closed.

"There is no agenda, no leaders, no organizing group, nothing to endorse other than we're not going to pay!," read an anonymous e-mail message posted on the Web site of the New York City Independent Media Center.

The posting urged protestors to "take it to the heart of the financial district," by gathering near the famous Wall Street bull statue at 4 p.m. ET.

"We have everything we need to create a large, peaceful, loud demonstration," the e-mail said. "By having it later in the day we can show these thieves, as they leave work, we're not their suckers."

Protests have been planned for Washington. Events were scheduled to coincide with meeting at the White House between Bush administration officials, Congressional leaders and the presidential candidates to discuss the final details of the bailout plan.

"The people we entrusted to run our economy have failed us," said Alan Charney, program director of UsAction. "We can no longer trust them to get us out of this financial mess."

Charney said the government should "put Main Street first" by ensuring that taxpayers have an ownership stake in the companies that benefit from the bailout plan.

It should also include provisions for increased oversight of the financial markets, limits on executive compensation and protection for homeowners facing foreclosure, he said.

Many of these issues have already been incorporated into alternative plans being circulated on Capitol Hill, something Charney said happened "because the American people are rising up and saying no, no, no."

In addition to the protests in New York and Washington, activists prepared to gather in front of AIG company headquarters in Hartford, Conn.

AIG received a whopping $85 billion bridge loan from the Federal Reserve last week as the world's largest insurance company floundered following the demise of Wall Street brokerage Lehman Brothers, which became the biggest bankruptcy case in U.S. history.

Government officials said at the time that allowing AIG to collapse would have put more strain on the financial system and could have caused even more damage to the economy.  To top of page

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