Pittsfield — Anger, outrage and a sense of humor. That’s what it took to be a participant in Saturday’s tax-day “stand-in” at Park Square.
On a bright spring afternoon on the traditional federal tax deadline of April 15, more than 200 protesters filled this faded city’s historic green to demand that President Donald Trump hand over his tax returns. They joined thousands nationwide in marches and demonstrations, calling for the president to release his tax returns. None of the participants were holding their breath, however, as they were resigned that the president would not lay bare his finances; most are convinced he has something to hide.
“Show us your taxes, Donald, and what it may reveal to us,” demanded Frank Farkas, the interim head of the group that organized the stand-in, the Berkshire Democratic Brigades.
“We want to know to whom you owe favors and who is currying favors with you. Who do you carry water for? In whose interest are you acting? Who is enriching you? What are all your conflicts of interest?”
Farkas’ words were interrupted by chants of “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like,” “Throw him in jail!” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!”
Farkas and the protesters also used April 15, the tax filing deadline imposed by the Internal Revenue Service, not only to demand to see the president’s tax returns but to question the current tax code and the one proposed by Trump, both of which Farkas branded as “rigged and unjust.”
“It’s been a feast for the wealthy and smaller and smaller pieces of the pie for the rest of the country,” Farkas said to sometimes deafening hoots of approval.
One protester, Lucy Kennedy of Lenox, told The Edge Trump’s tax proposals would widen the gap between rich and poor and “we shouldn’t be financing tax cuts by cutting social services.”
Of viewing Trump’s tax returns, Kennedy, a member of the Lenox Democratic Town Committee, said, “I’d like to understand his entanglements with foreign governments, especially Russia.”
Kennedy’s sign read, “No tax cuts for the 1 percent,” and featured a crudely drawn bag of money. The sign of her friend Deborah Golden Alecson, also a Lenox DTC member, read simply, “Impeach them all!”
Another protester, Jim Mahon, wore a sign asking, “What are you hiding, Mr. Trump?” At the bottom of the sign dangled two 1040 federal tax forms, which Mahon said he and his wife, Paula Consolini, would gladly help him complete.
“I’ll show him how to fill it out,” Mahon said. “He can even get a tax credit for Barron.”
“He’s already claiming all of us as dependents,” cracked Dennis Powell, president of the Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP.
“I wanted to give you my crowd estimate,” said Mahon, accosting this reporter. “It’s 400,000. Believe me!”
Consolini later clarified. “It’s 219, or that’s what I counted. I wouldn’t lie. I don’t believe in alternative facts.” More laughter.
Between the incessant chants and the frequent blasts of approval from the horns of passing motorists, it was sometimes difficult to interview attendees.
Joyce Scheffey of Great Barrington offered to a reporter a laundry list of Trump’s offenses that went way beyond the presidential tax returns. Her grievances include his deep proposed cut in the budget for the EPA and the lack of professionalism of his cabinet, which she said, “has set new records for incompetence.”
“I can’t begin to tell you,” she told a reporter. “I get up in the morning and I groan about all the idiocy.”
Scheffey plans to attend the March for Science, a series of rallies and marches set to be held in Washington, D.C. and over 500 cities across the world on April 22.
Michael Wise, who chairs the Great Barrington Democratic Town Committee and has been making an effort to coordinate the resistance effort in South County, said he saw some unfamiliar faces in the crowd, “which is good.”
Wise did caution against too many demonstrations because people can become numb to them. But he added that the juxtaposition of Saturday’s event with the January “4 Freedoms” march that attracted 2,000 hit just the right tone and frequency.
In an interview, Farkas said he was not expecting 200 people to show up for the event since it was being held on a holiday weekend that included a rare trifecta: Good Friday, Easter and Patriot’s Day.
“There is still so much energy in the resistance,” Farkas said. “And the response from people driving by has been very positive.”
Wise has called a meeting of the Great Barrington DTC on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, at 9:30 a.m. at the Claire Teague Senior Center. On the agenda is “coordination among local activist groups, the draft platform for the June state convention, and state and local legislative issues.” Leaders of the resistance in South County and beyond are invited to attend.