Thousands gather to rally in local version of national Tax March protest

Saturday, April 15, 2017 - 8:37pm

Rallygoers hoisting signs above their heads stating, “Make Ethics Great Again” and “We Want Our Future Back,” marched Saturday afternoon through the sidewalks of downtown Ann Arbor while participating in a Tax March as the final hours for the deadline to file for federal and state taxes approach.

Ann Arbor’s Tax March, organized by Progressives at the University of Michigan and Michigan To Believe In, a subset of Bernie Sanders’s national movement, “Our Revolution,” was just one part in the series of marches occurring around the world on national Tax Day with more than 44 states and five countries getting involved to demand that President Donald Trump release his tax returns over concerns of financial entanglements and conflicts of interest. A larger march was held in Washington, D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial.  

The local march was followed by a rally on the University of Michigan Diag with speeches by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.), members of Michigan’s House of Representatives and a University Law professor all urging for the release of Trump’s taxes and speaking out against the detrimental effects of the cuts made to various government-funded organizations and programs under Trump’s budget proposal.

During her speech, Dingell addressed the current propositions made by Republican leaders and Trump to refocus on tax cuts and reform amid the recent failures to repeal the Affordable Care Act, stating the results of these ideas will directly affect working and middle-class Americans.

“It’s gotten so bad that we now have to fight to preserve Meals on Wheels,” Dingell said.

She went on further to decry the recent increase of military spending under Trump’s new budget — a total of $54 billion — stating the need to prioritize the immediate concerns affecting American citizens before expanding the U.S. armed forces.

“Schools not bombs,” Dingell said. “We’ve got to take care of our own citizens before we increase the world’s largest defense budget.”

University Law professor Eli Savit, who currently serves as senior adviser to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, discussed how the deteriorating building conditions of the Detroit public school system are the results of the influence corporations and billionaires have on altering politics.

“You see, Michigan, unlike every other state virtually in the United States, doesn’t pay a single dime towards public school maintenance,” Savit said. “It comes back to money and politics. The rich, the corporations, millionaires and billionaires, they can bundle money for legislatures, they can start pacts, they can influence elections, and we don’t even get to know who’s behind them.” 

Ypsilanti resident Lani Chisnell, who marched and attended the rally, discussed how the Trump’s decision to not release his tax returns is only one of the many things she believes is wrong with the president.

“The taxes, it's just a piece of a larger puzzle, it's just a piece of a larger problem,” Chisnell said.

She discussed how organizing marches like the Tax March will be the most effective way of continuing the momentum of creating change in the government.

“I think we have to keep showing up, we have to keep trying, we have to keep pushing, and I think everything little thing we can do, we have to try and do it. If we can get any sort of traction with this, I think it’s important.”

New Hudson resident Adam Belcher, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. military in Afghanistan during 2009, discussed why he felt compelled to attend the Tax March in Ann Arbor after choosing to not voting in the 2016 presidential election.

“We kind of let go of our democracy,” Belcher said. “Our voices weren’t really heard, and I don’t feel like a lot of people really put their voices out in this last election. A lot of people didn’t vote, me being one of them. It boiled over into a Trump presidency; it's wrong, and I’m out here to say no to it.”

Engineering freshman Raymond Surya, who volunteered with Progressives at the University of Michigan to help organize the march, said why he felt it's important to get involved in being politically active.

“In general, activism is great to be involved in, and especially with Trump as president, and, in particular, Trump is not showing his taxes and may have connections with Russia, and that's something our American public deserves to know.”