When then-candidate Donald Trump did not release his tax returns during the 2016 campaign cycle, he became the first major-party presidential nominee — and now president — to break with that 40-year tradition.
Aiming to put pressure on him to release them, more than 1,000 people gathered at the Capitol on Saturday, on what is traditionally known as Tax Day, to protest. The march was one of a series of similar “Tax March” protests being held across the nation.
Organizers said about 3,000 were in attendance; Texas Department of Public Safety troopers estimated there were between 1,000 and 2,000.
Austin organizer Christine Mecklenborg, 32, said momentum from the Women’s March in January led to the organization of a local demonstration for the Tax March.
“Our primary purpose is demanding the release of Donald Trump’s tax returns, but our broader purpose is pushing for transparency and accountability in our government, which is — or should be — a nonpartisan issue,” Mecklenborg said. “It’s important for the American people to have that transparency and know exactly where his conflicts of interests lie.”
Mecklenborg said organizers hoped that the rally would motivate people to reach out to elected representatives and push for legislation that would require Trump or future presidents to release their tax returns.
JC Dufresne, president of the Texas chapter of Common Cause, a government watchdog group, was one of several speakers at Saturday’s demonstration and said the Trump administration is “arguably … the least transparent, least accountable we’ve ever had.”
“Today, he still claims, because he’s under audit, he can’t” release his returns, Dufresne said, to which the crowd shouted, “Liar!”and booed. “Yeah, we all know it’s a crock. … If he thinks he can dodge releasing his tax returns forever, he’s wrong.”
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, tried to pass an amendment that would have used a little-known authority of the House Ways and Means Committee to secure and review in closed session Trump’s income tax returns, but the measure was defeated by Republicans.
“For your legislators in Congress, Tax Day is more aptly called Tax Coverup Day,” Doggett said in a statement that was read Saturday by a march organizer. “Burying Trump’s tax returns buries efforts to get to the truth on so many questions.”
Throughout the rally, protesters shouted, “Show us your taxes!” and held signs that read, “Unmask your taxes,” “What is Trump hiding?” and “Don’t Mess With Taxes. Release Yours Now!”
Brad Fullerton, 52, of Austin held a sign with a Jerry Maguire meme of Tom Cruise, saying, “Show me the 1040!” Fullerton said he wants to see the forms because he thinks Trump is corrupt.
“He’s shown himself to be corrupt throughout his business career,” Fullerton said. “He shouldn’t be running the country, and the only way the citizens will understand that is to see his tax returns.”
Joe Ryan, 35, an Austin resident and a member of Indivisible Austin, an anti-Trump grass-roots movement, went so far as to paste a copy of what he said was his own 1040 form (with his personal identification information redacted) on a sign that read: “My 1040. Mr. Trump, where’s yours?”
“If I were to run for public office, I wouldn’t think I’m above doing the same,” Ryan said. “So I demand that he do the same.”