AIG protesters take Connecticut bus tour

WILTON, Connecticut Sat Mar 21, 2009 6:28pm EDT

1 of 2. Protesters stand in front of the Financial Products Headquarters of American International Group Inc. (AIG) following a bus tour to the homes of some of the executives who were recipients of a bonus from AIG in Wilton, Connecticut, March 21, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

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WILTON, Connecticut (Reuters) - A bus tour to the Connecticut homes of AIG executives organized by a small party of activists angered by bonuses paid to staff of the bailed-out insurer drew more reporters than protesters on Saturday.

In the tour, dubbed "Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous," protesters took a bus that picked up passengers in Hartford and Bridgeport for a 2-1/2 hour trip to see the swanky homes of American International Group executives in exclusive Fairfield County and to AIG's Wilton offices.

The event was organized by Connecticut Working Families, a small liberal political party.

"It's been one outrage after another," said protester Aaron Goode, a 26-year-old archivist at Yale University. "AIG is a symptom but not the only source of the problem."

AIG has become a lightning rod for populist anger for giving out $220 million in bonuses, including those paid in December, to some executives after the company got a $180 billion government bailout to save it from collapse.

"The outcry stems from the idea that taxpayers are paying for bonuses for executives whose chief accomplishments ruined their company," said Jon Green, the party's executive director.

Protesters originally planned to deliver letters asking the executives to return the money. But after it was reported that AIG employees whose homes were on the tour would return their money, they instead asked for support for anti-home foreclosure and anti-poverty measures.

Protesters trying to deliver the letters at two of the executives' homes were met by private security guards.

An officer stationed at an executive's Colonial house at the end of a cul-de-sac in Fairfield said police had expected a much larger group.

The head of AIG, Edward Liddy, at a congressional hearing on Wednesday said some AIG executives had received death threats and he had concerns for employees' safety.

Including people working for the organizers, there were about 40 protesters on the bus, though more activists showed up at the last stop, AIG's Wilton offices.

Activists appeared to be there for a variety of reasons.

"It seemed like a fun thing to do," said Brian Mills, a 23-year-old student, before an organizer shooed away reporters, telling them to speak with "designated speakers."

The protest displayed the feeling of siege felt in wealthy Fairfield County after AIG's bonuses became a symbol of Wall Street excess.

One resident, who declined to give her name but said her husband was a well paid financial executive, was shaken to see the busload of people descend on her neighbor's home overlooking Long Island Sound.

"It's very hard to see people who've made such a contribution to our community singled out," the woman said. "Why don't they single out people who took out mortgages they couldn't afford?"

(Reporting by Phil Wahba, editing by Vicki Allen)

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