“The Promise” is the story of America in the Age of Trump. It is set in three small cities: Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Youngstown, Ohio; and McAllen, Texas.
By Sean Barron
Alexis Smith knows she’s in good company when it comes to demanding that President Donald Trump release his tax returns and take steps toward displaying greater transparency.
“He needs to release his full returns like all presidents have done over the last 40 years,” said Smith, who was among more than 100 protesters who took part in a peaceful rally Saturday afternoon on downtown’s Central Square, calling on Trump to follow that precedent.
“We need to know, are there are any conflicts of interest or entanglements with foreign countries?”
Smith, outreach coordinator with Valley Voices Unified for Change, noted the 90-minute local gathering was one of more than 200 such rallies in the U.S. and around the world.
Protesters took to the streets Saturday to call on Trump to release his returns, saying Americans deserve to know about his business ties and potential conflicts of interest.
Trump is the first major party nominee since President Gerald Ford to not release his returns, saying it was because he was under audit. He later said that voters don’t care.
“We do care. We want to see his taxes,” said Ann Demerlis, who was among hundreds who marched in Philadelphia from city hall to an area in front of historic Independence Hall, carrying signs and chanting “We want your taxes now!”
Trump, who spent the morning at his Florida golf course, avoided several hundred protesters when his motorcade took a circuitous route back to Mar-A-Lago, his Palm Beach, Fla., estate. Protesters marched across the bridge that divides West Palm Beach and Palm Beach, chanting and hoisting signs that read “Don the Con,” “Go back to New York,” “Show your taxes!” and “Show me the money!”
Locally, many attendees held signs with similar sentiments, and others at the rally excoriated the president for what they see as his failure to pay his share of taxes while pushing for changes in the tax code they contend will benefit the wealthiest Americans at the expense of cutting a slew of vital social programs.
An estimated 74 percent of Americans – as well as 60 percent of Republicans –want Trump to come clean on his taxes, which shows this is a nonpartisan issue, Smith said.
In Washington, D.C., one of Trump’s sharpest critics in the House spoke to protesters at the U.S. Capitol just before they set off on a march to the National Mall. Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters of California said there’s nothing to prevent Trump from releasing his income taxes and that “the simple truth is he’s got a lot to hide.”
“If he thinks he can get away with playing king, he’s got another thought coming,” Waters said.
Violent clashes were the exception during the largely peaceful demonstrations, but in Berkeley, Calif., police arrested 13 people and confiscated knives and makeshift weapons after fistfights broke out between factions that support and oppose Trump.
Senate Democratic (minority) leader Chuck Schumer of New York has said Trump’s refusal to release his returns could hinder Republicans’ prospects for a rewrite of the tax code.
Protesters began converging on Cambridge Common in Massachusetts, where they also plan to call on the all-Democratic Massachusetts Congressional delegation to oppose Trump’s budget proposal. They say the proposed cuts to health care, education and transportation are cruel and inhumane.
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts posted an online video Friday urging Congress to force Trump to release the returns. Democrats are pushing for a vote on a bill from Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, which would require the president and all major-party nominees to publicly disclose their previous three years of tax returns with the Office of Government Ethics or the Federal Election Commission.
Republicans also have rebuffed Democrats’ efforts to get the House Ways and Means Committee to act. It has legal authority to obtain confidential tax records and could vote to make them public.
Nevertheless, a theme that ran through the local rally was that Trump has no reason not to make public his tax records, unless he has nefarious reasons for refusing.
“People who hide things have something to hide,” said Maria Pappas, a longtime educator and former principal of Paul C. Bunn Elementary School in Youngstown.
Several other speakers at the downtown rally, including a Youngstown State University economics professor and members of the Mahoning County Young Democrats, discussed how the nation’s income inequalities are hurting education, mental-health services and job growth; the damaging effects of cutting funding to PBS, the arts, Meals on Wheels and many other vital social programs; and the president’s low approval rating.
The rally ended with protesters walking around Central Square’s perimeter chanting demands that Trump make his tax returns public.
Tuesday is the deadline for taxpayers to file returns.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.