Marching in a circle outside AIG's Washington office, their pitchforks--er, protest signs--raised to the sky, a dozen left-wing activists chanted their demands. "Jail them, don't bail them!" they shouted outside the insurance giant's building on K Street. "Stop the bonuses, stop the crime, AIG crooks must do time!" Organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, with assistance from the anti-war ANSWER Coalition, today's midday protest was intended to send the message that slashing the bonuses wouldn't be enough to quell the popular fury against the banks. "I think they should be put out of business," says Brian Becker, one of the organizers. "They say that the economy will collapse [without the banks], but in many ways it already has collapsed." If the right-wingers insist that the federal intervention smacks of pure socialism, Becker says that the bailouts have only fueled payouts to the overlords of "unfettered capitalism" who are playing a "shell game to give billions ... to the very rich."
Though the demonstration didn't attract much of a crowd--the journalists and police officers outnumbered the protesters--there were occasional murmurings of sympathy from passersby. "That's the money we want back," said a middle-aged man in a navy suit as he walked by the chanting circle. Even those who dismissed the protesters for "complaining, not working" seemed encouraged by Congress's plan to put a 90 percent tax on the bonuses. "We'll get our money back right away--it's a great idea," said one 34-year-old IT worker. But at least one onlooker was concerned about the targets of their rage. "I appreciate the anger, but these poor people are just working in the local [AIG] office. They're missing the big picture," said Bob Spoth, 49, as he watched the scene. "What gets lost in the zeal to ‘crucify them' is the attention that needs to be paid to the people who should be crucified."