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Protesters March To GE Shareholders Meeting

DETROIT (WWJ) - They're loud and they're making headlines across the country. A huge group of protesters outside Detroit's Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit are protesting the General Electric shareholders meeting.

Demonstrators claim GE has avoided paying $26 billion in taxes, while leaving "the 99-percent" to deal with deficits, layoffs, while watching jobs sent overseas. GE says their taxes are paid.

On another front, GE retirees from around the country, including this man from Kentucky, are coming in to protest the lack of Cost of Living Adjustments for their pensions.

"So, we're gonna keep trying," he told WWJ Newsradio 950's Ron Dewey. "If we go long enough somethin' will happen. I'm only 90, so what the heck!"

After activists protested Tuesday at Cobo Center at the SAE's annual shareholder's meeting, Detroit Police Inspector Don Johnson told WWJ protests were informed to keep it civil, peaceful and safe.

Barricades were put in front of the RenCen steps to keep protesters on the sidewalk.

"Detroit Police Department and other city entities have to take part in this particular rally and demonstration, and make sure they are in compliance with the city ordinances as well as the state statute," said Johnson.

"We just ask that the folks who are coming down to demonstrate, for them to just be respectful of others, that's the main thing. We know that we have visitors here demonstrating as well, and we would like for them to enjoy the city and just have a good time while they're here, and don't get arrested," he continued.

He said officers would not only be outside the meeting, they'd also have a presence inside as well.

"We do know that some of the activists have bought shares into the GE Company, and several of them are scheduled to go inside of the shareholders meeting and we're going to talk to them and let them know what our expectations of them are," said Johnson.

And while they don't expect any problems, Johnson said officers will be prepared for anything.

"If they refuse us, they can face arrest. However, we are not looking to arrest anyone and we just expect for the demonstrators to respect what the law enforcement officials as well as the Renaissance Center security is asking them to do," he said.

Johnson said he's already gearing up for the next demonstration, on May 3, at DTE Energy's Detroit offices for their shareholder's meeting.

Activists with "The 99-percent" disrupted GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt's speech to open the SAE World Congress on Tuesday. As Immelt started talking about creating new jobs, he was interrupted by protesters who said "We pay taxes and you should too."  About 20 other protesters were out in a hall chanting, "We are the 99 percent, pay your fair share."

"We pay 29 percent," Immelt responded, before three protesters were escorted out of Cobo's riverfront ballroom. Later, a GE spokesman said the 29 percent tax rate was what the company paid globally in 2011. In the U.S., the rate was 25 percent.

Read more, here.

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