Another day, another protest. On Saturday, April 15, the traditional Tax Day, thousands of protesters in cities across the country are taking to the streets to demand that President Trump release his tax returns.
Here are five things you need to know about this protest.
1. A response to Kellyanne Conway.
“Despite intense public pressure, President Trump has not yet done so — breaking with 40 years of precedent in the process,” the event’s organizers explained. “His administration’s excuse? ‘People don’t care.'” To that, the activists respond, “We do care. Without seeing his tax returns, we have no idea what he’s hiding — shady business deals? Financial ties to foreign countries?”
2. It was born on Twitter.
The protest was imagined by two liberals on Twitter who responded to Conway’s claims.
Comedy writer Frank Lesser tweeted, “Trump claims no one cares about his taxes. The next mass protest should be on Tax Day to prove him wrong.”
Trump claims no one cares about his taxes. The next mass protest should be on Tax Day to prove him wrong.
— Frank Lesser (@sadmonsters) January 22, 2017
Law professor Jennifer Taub had a similar idea, except she named it “DivestDonald.”
— Jennifer Taub (@jentaub) January 22, 2017
A similar idea inspired a rather anti-climactic mooning of Trump Tower in Chicago in February.
— Paul Maximilian Banks (@PaulMBanks) February 12, 2017
3. Polls show declining number of people care.
A Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll early this month found that just over half of Americans (51 percent) say Trump’s taxes are either very or somewhat important to them. Interestingly, this was down from 62 percent last August, before the November election.
A majority of voters (53 percent) said Trump should be forced to release his returns, and 45 percent said Trump’s taxes are relevant to his job in the White House.
Activists might seek to keep this issue before the public consciousness, despite the importance of other issues like Trump’s proposed repeal of Obamacare, the bombings in Syria and Afghanistan, the tension with North Korea, the Republican tax reform plan, and many others.
While President Trump and Republicans in Congress struggle to address these pertinent issues, liberal activists seem intent on delegitimizing the sitting president. That is their First Amendment right.
4. Taxes already released.
Perhaps the declining interest might have something to do with the release of two Trump tax returns, one from 1995 and another from 2005. In the 1995 return, Trump famously declared a $916 million loss, which The New York Times reported is a deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal taxes for up to 18 years.
But the 2005 return proved that Trump did pay taxes in at least one year following the large write-off. Those documents, released on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show last month, revealed that Trump made $150 million and paid $36 million in taxes.
These two tax return releases are far from exhaustive, and there has been speculation that President Trump leaked the 2005 return to Rachel Maddow. These returns do not answer critics’ concerns about alleged foreign indebtedness or inappropriate business ties either.
While Trump arguably should release more information, the fact that these returns have already been made public allows supporters of the president to dismiss the issue, while failing to satisfy opponents. It would be interesting to see if the protests this weekend prop up interest in the president’s taxes.
5. Mar-A-Lago and Washington, D.C.
The marches will take place in 44 states across the country and in four foreign cities, according to the Tax March website. Two focal points are President Trump’s resort at Mar-A-Lago, which he has dubbed his “Southern White House,” and the nation’s capital.
South Florida march organizers, For Florida’s Future and Tax March, declared that Trump “owes the American people answers” on the questions of whether the president is indebted to foreign nationals or if any of his business relationships violate the Emoluments Clause, Politico reported. The activists say the clause prohibits Trump-owned businesses from receiving gifts from foreign governments. (Despite the fact that Trump has given ownership of his companies to his adult children.)
West Palm Beach protesters plan to start at Trump Plaza in West Palm around noon and march the approximately three miles to the entrance to Mar-A-Lago, where Trump is spending Easter weekend.
The main Tax March will be in Washington, D.C., where organizers have applied for permits with the Park Department for a gathering of more than 10,000 people, Time magazine reported. San Francisco organizers reportedly expect 20,000 protesters, and even in St. Paul, Minn., organizers expect at least 5,000 people.
Pictures of marches in many cities have already shown up on Twitter. These include Philadelphia, Pa.:
— Roland 🌊 (@RolandWall) April 15, 2017
St. Louis, Mo.:
— Craig England (@craig_engl) April 15, 2017
And, of course, the nation’s capital.
— Tax March (@taxmarch) April 15, 2017
This photo, in particular, shows protesters lined up with signs mocking Trump as a chicken. In the back left, in front of the U.S. Capitol, there is a banner and a podium where activists are scheduled to speak. In the back right stands the iconic Trump chicken, a statement that the president is afraid to release his tax returns.
— Tax March (@taxmarch) April 15, 2017
The real question is whether or not the activists will bring up President Trump’s high expenses to travel to the “Winter White House” of Mar-A-Lago nearly every weekend. Each trip reportedly costs taxpayers around $3 million, so Trump has already spent $21 million. In contrast, President Obama’s travel was estimated to have cost taxpayers between $85 million and $96 million overall, for an average of $12 million per year.
A protest based on this high expense might attract fiscal conservatives as well as liberals. Conservatives who attacked Obama for his vacation spending should also criticize Trump for this.