Tens of thousands of people from Long Island to California joined in rallies and marches across the country on Saturday to demand that President Donald Trump fulfill his past promises to release his tax returns as other presidents before him have done.
The day of the “Tax March” protests was April 15, officially known as Tax Day, because that’s when the Internal Revenue Service has traditionally set its due date. This year the formal filing deadline is April 18th, to compensate for the weekend.
So far, the president has refused to comply, for various reasons. A few years ago he said he would release his tax returns if President Obama released his birth certificate. In 2014, Trump said he’d release his returns if he ever decided to run for public office. But at his first press conference as president-elect, Trump declared that the public is not interested in seeing his returns. That assertion was clearly refuted last Saturday, based on the turnout in more than 100 cities, including the IRS office in Hauppauge. He’s also claimed that he is prevented from obliging because his taxes are undergoing a formal audit by the agency, a procedure the IRS has said is not a factor in preventing him from showing the public how much money he’s made and where it came from.
These concerns about Trump’s business ties have grown increasingly pronounced as disturbing revelations about his family and his aides’ dealings in Russia continue unabated.
Meanwhile, in another reversal of long-standing White House policy, the Trump administration announced April 14th that it would no longer make the names of visitors to the White House available to the public, which President Obama had done. A Trump spokesman said the decision was due “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of visitors annually,” as reported by NPR.
Protesters saw the White House’s action as another suspicious sign of Trump’s unethical behavior. Among the signs held by more than 200 people who stood along Veterans Highway outside the IRS office in Hauppauge, one read: “Corrupt Trump has got something to hide!” Others included: “Show us your taxes!” A man wearing a Jets cap held a poster with a clever pun implying: “Why are you PUTIN off releasing your taxes?”
As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) explained in a statement before the Tax March, “Donald Trump is hiding something. And we know where he’s hiding it—not in a safe, not in a vault. Nope, he’s hiding it in his taxes,” she said, adding “we do know that Trump hotels owe hundreds of millions of dollars to Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, the Bank of China. We know he’s done business with Saudi princes, and even investors allegedly tied to the Russian mob.”
For more than 40 years American presidents have routinely released their tax returns—even though it’s not a formal requirement. Warren said the issue is about “who exercises influence—who really calls the shots—over the man who now sits in the White House.”
Long Island Activists for Democracy helped to organize the event at the Hauppauge IRS, which ran from noon until 1:30 p.m. and included a pair of dogs with anti-Trump signs on their backs as well as young children and a couple of protesters in wheelchairs. Earlier in the morning, demonstrators had gathered in Bethpage at a demonstration that the Long Island Progressive Coalition had helped set up to demand that Trump clear the ethical cloud surrounding his administration.
In Manhattan, thousands of people began marching in Bryant Park, where they heard Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) reportedly tell the crowd, “Donald Trump is a living breathing conflict of interest, and the American people deserve to know what the heck he’s hiding from this great republic.” Also speaking at the Manhattan rally was comedienne Sarah Silverman, who according to the Daily News, said, “We all are very interested in not only where this president had business ties and who he is beholden to, but why he refuses to show us. And there is no possible explanation other than fishy shit is going on.”
Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of people rallied at the U.S. Capitol, where the Huffington Post reported that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), referring to Trump as the 45th president, led the crowd in a chant of “Impeach 45!” The parade also featured Donny the Tax March Chicken, an inflatable plastic poultry mascot made over to resemble the president, complete with golden orange hairdo.
Some organizers for the nationwide protest have reportedly credited Trump’s spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway for providing the inspiration when she recently commented that Americans didn’t care about his taxes. But so many people in Florida came out on Saturday to demand the president release his returns that his motorcade had to change its route back from the golf course to his Mar-A-Lago mansion so he wouldn’t have to see signs reading “Don the Con,” “Go back to New York” and “Show your taxes!”
Monday on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” Conway said the protests were misguided efforts by disgruntled liberals and disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters to get an election do-over.
“Six months after Donald Trump won 306 electoral votes, you have people still trying to make it go away, and this is the president,” she said. She also tried to blame the national Democratic Party for an outbreak of fighting between a small group of Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters at a park in Berkeley, Calif., where more than a dozen people were ultimately arrested.
Apparently President Trump did notice the protests, as he revealed in a flurry of badly worded Easter Sunday tweets, as reported by Politico: “I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican—easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again? Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!”
For those Long Islanders who lined Vets Highway in Hauppauge, the president’s unsubstantiated claim would have been welcome news, since no one seemed to be handing out money that afternoon, least of all protest organizer Ruth Cohen of Long Island Activists for Democracy.
“We are becoming a banana republic,” Cohen reportedly said, “where all the power and wealth is held by a super-small elite.”
According to a copy of his federal tax return leaked to MSNBC in March, Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes in 2005—the most recent return available—on more than $150 million, for an effective tax rate of 25 percent. What, if any, taxes he’s paid since remains to be seen.
Featured Photo: Hundreds rallied in front of the IRS office in Hauppauge on April 15 in a nationwide protest demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns to the public. (Spencer Rumsey / Long Island Press)