A long line formed outside Moscone West on the morning of June 6 as attendees of Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference prepared to be wowed by an unveiling of the company's latest technology. A giant Apple logo was projected on the building above the scene as the crowd inched toward the entrance of the convention center, many clutching coffee cups and gazing at iPhones or iPads as they waited.
Suddenly, the conference-goers had something more entertaining to look at than the latest Tweet or email message. Five slender performance artists clad in head-to-toe spandex bodysuits wove through the techie crowd and waltzed right into the convention center, where they lined up and began a series of movements.
"Power rangers," a bemused bystander quipped. Camera phones came out, and people laughed as they looked on, mildly surprised by the spectacle.
A couple nervous-looking security guards appeared several feet away from the spandex-clad team when they lined up inside the main foyer, but the two didn't clash, since the performers turned and slow-walked in robotic movements back toward the door once they were asked to take it out to the sidewalk.
Video by Rebecca Bowe
Turns out, it was a form of creative protest. The colorful crew was there to bring in a message in the form of QR codes clipped to their outfits. They encouraged the iPhone-wielding passersby to scan them.
Scanning the QR code brought one to this link, a YouTube video titled, "Apple: Tax Cheating Doesn't Sync With My Values."
The five protesters were there with US Uncut, a grassroots organization founded several months ago for the purpose of "pressuring corporate tax cheats to pay their fair share," according to a press release. Joanne Gifford, a spokesperson, told the Guardian that the protesters were there to bring the message that Apple was not being a good corporate citizen. "It's very disturbing that they are doing everything they can not to give back to the system," Gifford said.
As the Guardian previously reported, Apple is lobbying Congress for a tax holiday along with a host of other major companies and business groups under the "Win America Campaign." According to a recent article in the Washington Post, "The idea is to encourage U.S.-based corporations to bring back, or 'repatriate,' up to $1 trillion now stashed in overseas tax havens by sharply reducing standard corporate income tax rates on that money from 35 percent to perhaps 5 percent."
Yet critics argue that such a dramatic reduction in the corporate income tax would amount to a giveaway to some of the nation's wealthiest companies -- and reward tax-dodgers besides -- at a time of devastating budget cuts and high unemployment. "US Uncut is demanding that Apple stop supporting the 'Win America Campaign,' ... If Congress gives the corporations in the WAC tax coalition this loophole, it would cost American taxpayers over $80 billion," US Uncut's press release noted.
"Hey, Apple, if you're going to lead the tax dodger's lobby, then expect us to show up on your corporate storefront," said US Uncut spokesperson Carol Gibson, "We all pay our fair share of taxes, and Apple should too."