It seems GE isn’t laughing about the hoax implemented by the Yes Men and US Uncut. Yesterday, the activist groups posted a fake press release allegedly from GE stating the company intended to donate its entire $3.2 billion tax refund to the US Treasury. The website, genewscenters.com, is a fake website hosted by BlueHost (the real GE-owned website is genewscenter.com).
GE immediately demanded the hoax website be taken down, which US Uncut views as an attack on their freedom of speech. Bryan Fansler, GE’s deputy chief information security officer, contacted Bluehost and, according to US Uncut, “waved some scary sounding legal phrases,” and successfully got Bluehost to take down the site for “a combination of Phishing, Copyright and Trademark infringement.”
Duncan Meisel, a US Uncut representative, calls this a violation of the group’s First Amendment rights. “[Fansler] isn’t a lawyer,” says Meisel. “This is a case of straight-up intimidation to silence criticism of one of America’s largest and most important corporations.”
Furthermore, Meisel believes there is precedent to use GE’s likeness in a satirical fashion. “Our right to fair use of their logo, copyright and trademarks is far more well established than their shady tax strategy,” says Meisel, adding US Uncut intends to fight the removal of the website.
In other budgetary news, thousands rallied at Michigan’s Capitol in opposition to educations cuts and pension taxes, and support the rights of workers to collectively bargain.
The rally, which was estimated as the biggest one of the year, drew 4,500 people who are angry at Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed cuts, which they say unfairly target lower- and middle-income citizens.
Jackson, a member of Laborers Local 499, said he was concerned about cuts to education and the tax on pensions.
“I have an 8-year-old. What about her future?” he said.
Many in the crowd wore shirts and jackets identifying themselves as union members, and several unions set up tents on the lawn.
One protester wore a Grim Reaper costume with “Reaper Rick” on the front and a sign overhead predicting “a grim future for Michigan.” Another man in a dress shirt held a sign that said “I honor my dad, a bricklayer, and all working class people.”
Snyder’s radical education austerity could cut as much as $500 per student, according to some estimates, but that number might jump up to more than $1,000 per student once certain programs like dropout prevention, rural school grants and declining-enrollment funding are forced to end.
Hundreds of faculty, students, and staff at San Diego University joined statewide protests opposing their state’s budget cuts and tuition hikes. More than 800 faculty, staff and students joined a seventy-five-minute midday protest that had already attracted a crowd of 400 to 500 people outside President Stephen Weber’s office. Similar protests are scheduled at all of the twenty-three California State University campuses.
Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plans, UC and CSU would face $500 million in cuts.
In Syracuse, teachers rallied outside the city school district headquarters to protest against state education cuts. Though the district will receive an addition $5 million once their budget is finalized, officials still plan on cutting 500 teaching jobs. Thus far, 370 people, about half of those teachers, have already been laid off. Another 100 employees are set to retire and their positions won’t be filled.