Saturday protests in Chicago, beyond to push Trump to release tax returns

Hoping to duplicate the massive turnout from January’s women’s march, activists in Chicago and beyond are busy spreading the word about a Tax Day protest Saturday aimed at pressuring President Donald Trump to release his tax returns.

Like the women’s march, Saturday’s event in Chicago will coincide with similar demonstrations in cities across the country. The downtown event kicks off at 11 a.m. with a rally in Daley Plaza followed by a march. With meteorologists predicting temperatures near 80 degrees and thousands indicating via social media that they’re ready to march, the turnout could be sizable.

But be warned: Getting around downtown might be tough. Chicago police and emergency management officials were drawing up plans to manage large crowds and traffic that could include rotating street closings, according to a police spokesman.

That happened in January — the day after Trump’s inauguration, when about 250,000 attended the Chicago women’s march, effectively shutting down several Loop streets. Millions of others participated in similar events across the world to voice disapproval over the new administration.

Chicago’s rally and march was the brainchild of documentary filmmaker Taran Singh Brar, who started the group Tax Day Chicago and a corresponding Facebook page earlier this year calling for the Tax Day march. Comedian Frank Lesser tweeted the suggestion the day after the Jan. 22 women’s march.

The marches and rallies here and beyond correspond with the traditional deadline for filing income taxes: April 15. Because the filing date fell on a Saturday and because Monday is a holiday in Washington, D.C., this year’s deadline was extended to Tuesday.

“Trump claims no one cares about his taxes. The next mass protest should be on Tax Day to prove him wrong,” Lesser wrote on Twitter.

Since then, at least 60 national groups including MoveOn.org and the Service Employees International Union have signed on to participate in Brar’s local protest, signaling a huge turnout. A protest permit filed with the Chicago Department of Transportation estimates a crowd of 6,000 people, though he’s optimistic that those groups, along with a sizable portion of the 10,000 people who indicated they would attend via the Tax Day Facebook page he set up, will boost attendance. But he says he’s ready to march all by himself.

“Whether it’s 5,500 or 50,000, we’re marching rain or shine,” Brar said.

Since the election campaign, critics have called on Trump to release detailed tax returns, saying they would reveal whether past business dealings would pose any conflict in his job as president. Trump has said that only reporters care about him releasing his tax returns and that “you learn very little” from the documents.

Brar’s group also started a crowdfunding effort last month to bring the 16-foot inflatable rooster known as “Chicken Don” to Saturday’s rally. The hulking chicken with Trump-like gold-plated hair, which has become the Tax Day mascot since a San Francisco writer and activist wrote that Trump “was a big chicken” for not releasing his taxes, will make an appearance at Saturday’s rally. “We’re making it fun and peaceful and family friendly,” Brar said.

Organizers say they’ve invited U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Mike Quigley and the Rev. Jesse Jackson to speak at the Daley Plaza rally. Officials with Schakowsky, Quigley and Jackson have not returned messages left by the Tribune to confirm whether they’ll attend. After the rally, the crowd is expected to march north toward Trump Tower. The event is expected to end about 2:30 p.m.

Brar said that no matter where people are on the political spectrum, they should attend Saturday’s rally and march, stressing that Trump’s taxes reached beyond partisan politics.

Trump has not released his tax forms and could be the first sitting president since Richard Nixon to not release at least some of his tax returns. Last month, two pages of Trump’s 2005 IRS Form 1040 showed that Trump paid about $38 million in income taxes on more than $150 million in income the year before.

A January ABC News/Washington Post poll that found that 74 percent of those polled said Trump should release his tax returns. In a recent Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll of registered voters, 53 percent said Trump should be forced to release his tax returns, and 51 percent said Trump’s taxes are either very or somewhat important to them.

“We live in a very politically polarized environment. … The one thing that seemed to escape is the tax return issue,” Brar said. “A lot of things break down along party lines, and this one seems to escape and in an environment that’s so highly polarized, I think we ought to maintain that.”

wlee@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @MidNoirCowboy

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