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Daley Plaza protesters demand that Trump release his tax returns

Protesters gathered at Daley Plaza Saturday to demand that President Donald Trump release his tax returns. | Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

On Chicago’s warmest Saturday so far this year, a few thousand protesters descended on Daley Plaza, hoping to keep the heat on President Donald Trump by demanding that he release his tax returns while dancing to the Beatles “Taxman” and “The Chicken Dance” before an inflatable white chicken with a golden comb.

Nancy Rose of Rogers Park said they weren’t much interested in any kind of protesting — until Trump was elected.

“I’ve been to a few of these now, but I had to ask someone what you were supposed to do the first time,” said Nancy Rose as she carried a sign with a marshmallow chick on it asking for a “peep” at Trump’s taxes. “The higher-income people have so many advantages to getting out of taxes. That’s not fair.”

Her husband, Frank, said he didn’t expect the protests to get Trump to finally release his taxes, but he thought the march would have an affect on the “more sober people” who represent him in Congress and might be able to force Trump to release them.

Deborah Orr, who came from University Park to attend the rally, said wanted to Trump to keep his promise to release his taxes after the election.

“I know it was a lie, he does it all the time,” Orr said. “I think it’s fair to want to know what his conflicts of interest are. He can see my taxes, I’d like to see his.”

Protesters march through the Loop on their way to Trump International Hotel and Tower calling on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns. | Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Saturday is April 15, the traditional filing day for federal taxes. However, this year, due to April 15 falling on a Saturday, and Washington D.C.’s Emancipation Day holiday being observed on on Monday, the IRS has extended the deadline to Tuesday, April 18.

As a candidate and as president, Trump has refused to release his tax returns, breaking a decades-long tradition. Although he initially promised to do so, he later claimed he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service and said his attorneys had advised against it — though experts and IRS officials said such audits don’t bar taxpayers from releasing their returns.

Trump long insisted the American public wasn’t interested in his returns and said little could be learned from them. But Trump’s full returns would contain key details about things like his charitable giving, his income sources, the type of deductions he claimed, how much he earned from his assets and what strategies Trump used to reduce his tax bill.

Anisha Pareddy, who grew up in Indianapolis but now lives in the West Loop, also said she wanted Trump’s White House to be more transparent.

“Maybe there’s something to uncover, maybe not, but I think you owe it to the people you’re serving,” Pareddy said.

South Side resident Lorie Washington said Trump signed up for the job and knew releasing his taxes was part of that.

“When you’re the leader of the free world, you’re held to a higher standard,” Washington said. “And you should be, because our taxes are paying your salary … for his protection. He’s supposed to work for us. We should know if he’s making money on the presidency, if he’s contributing, who he owes money to.”

Others, who had recently filed their own taxes, want to make sure Trump is doing the same thing. Some are skeptical — despite a leaked return from 2005 showing he had paid $36.5 million in federal income taxes that year.

“We had to pay a lot of taxes this year,” said Cindy Kessler, who came with her 77-year-old mother from Northlake. “But I don’t mind, it pays for our schools, our cities, important things.”

A protester holds a sign across the river from Trump International Hotel and Tower on Saturday. | Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Still others want to see the returns to know more about Trump’s business entanglements.

Mike Stasinos of Norwood Park wondered if Trump was hiding more than how much tax he pays.

“It’s probably not just one thing, but many,” he said. “The point is we don’t know.”

Speakers at the plaza included Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and state Sen. Daniel Biss, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018.

The crowd booed when Biss mentioned Gov. Bruce Rauner, another billionaire that Biss said was gaming the tax system. Biss told protesters to sign a petition to compel state legislators to pass Illinois Senate Bill 982 — which would require any candidate for president to release their returns in order to appear on the Illinois ballot in 2020.

“Fantastic,” Biss said of the crowd after he stepped down from the mic. “There’s a movement building in Illinois that I think is a model for the rest of the county.”

Jackson’s wide-ranging speech rallied the crowd with call-and-respond chants that touched on immigration, the threat of nuclear war with North Korea and the viral video that showed a man being dragged off a United Express flight at O’Hare Airport.

“Whether you are United Airlines or Donald Trump, the 1 percent should not have privilege at the expense of the rest of America,” Jackson said. “All of us must work and pay our fair share of taxes.”

Shortly after noon, the crowd took to Dearborn Street, marching north to the Chicago River, where a second inflated chicken was set up on the south bank, across from Trump International Hotel and Tower.

The crowd gathered and chanted, before slowing breaking away. Crowds were out of the street by about 1:30 p.m., police said. Many who came said they planned to stay downtown and enjoy the rest of the day.

The rally and march were among many held Saturday across the country; in all, 180 protests were planned in 48 states. Though the Chicago march was peaceful and low-key, things were different in California, where Berkeley police say 13 people have been arrested after violence broke out between groups of supporters and detractors of Trump, both of which were holding rallies in downtown Berkeley.

About 200 people were at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park when several people started pushing each other. Dozens of police officers in riot gear were standing nearby and quickly arrested one man. Others were arrested as several fistfights broke out.

Contributing: Associated Press

Rev. Jesse Jackson — and an inflatable chicken with Trump-esque hair — appeared at a rally urging the president to release his tax returns. | Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times