Nationwide 'Tax March' protests seek release of Trump tax returns

By Daniel Uria and Eric DuVall   |   Updated April 15, 2017 at 6:38 PM
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April 15 (UPI) -- Protesters in 180 cities used the April 15 IRS tax filing deadline as a symbolic milestone to demand President Donald Trump release his tax returns.

Hundreds of protesters crowded the Capitol lawn in Washington, carrying signs. Some wore the trademark pink caps first donned at the Women's Day march, which spawned the Tax Day protest.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, was the keynote speaker at the event and shamed Trump for being the first president since Richard Nixon not to make his personal finances public.

"President Trump has tossed this great American tradition in the trash can like a teenager trying to hide a lousy report card," Wyden said. "Knock off the secrecy, Mr. President, and publicly release your own tax returns. Disclosing tax returns is the very lowest ethical bar for a president and we are going to insist that he clear it."

Trump said before he became a candidate he would release his taxes if he decided to run. Later, when he became a candidate, he said he would not do so until an IRS audit of his returns was completed. Though it has been a bipartisan standard for presidential candidates dating back to the 1960s, there is no law requiring candidates to release their tax returns. Instead, they must make filings generally outlining their personal finances with the Federal Elections Commission, requirements Trump followed.

During the race, Trump faced tough questions when one year of his tax returns, from 1995, were obtained and published by The New York Times. It showed Trump taking a nearly $1 billion loss as his casino empire in Atlantic City, N.J., was facing bankruptcy. Under U.S. law, the 1995 loss enabled Trump to write off the subsequent 17 years of personal income derived from his reality television career and other sources.

It appeared all but one of the Tax Day protests went off without issue, save a protest in Berkeley, Calif., where fights broke out between pro- and anti-Trump groups. KGO-TV, San Francisco, reported police had made at least 13 arrests.

Chief among many protesters' concerns was the possibility Trump is refusing to release his tax returns because it would show financial ties to Russia. The country has garnered intense speculation and spawned three official investigations over its role hacking the election to Trump's benefit.

"There's a lot of dots connecting him to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and I think his taxes would reveal the final dot," protester Leslie Thiel, 58, told USA Today.

Thiel drove from her home in North Carolina to join the Capitol Hill protest.

With Republicans in power, an array of liberal groups have come together with the aim of channeling the pent-up anger in the Democratic base -- much the same way the GOP harnessed the frustration that drove the Tea Party movement after Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

In fact, the Tea Party rose to national prominence itself from a series of Tax Day protests in 2009, with members angered over what they saw as government overreach on healthcare and runaway spending in a $780 million economic stimulus package.

The organizers said more than 180 marches are planned throughout 48 states in addition to the march in D.C.

Delvone Michael, a member of the Tax March executive committee, said protesters will carry and display inflatable chickens meant to symbolize Trump withholding his returns.

Organizer Jennifer Taub told the New York Times she proposed the idea of the Tax March on Twitter after participating in the Women's march in January and it "turned into a movement overnight" when writer Frank Lesser made a similar suggestion.

She also said she believes the public will see Trump's tax returns "one way or another" and that she hoped the march would encourage people to bring the issue up to their congressional representatives.

"I want to keep our attention on following the money," Taub said.

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