Resist: Tax March and Berkeley battle draw crowds
by Liz Highleyman
Several thousand protesters took to the streets in San Francisco Saturday, April 15, to demand that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, while across the bay Trump supporters and anti-fascist activists faced off in Berkeley.
Tax March participants filled the plaza outside City Hall in the early afternoon, where they heard speeches from elected officials including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and San Francisco Supervisors Jane Kim and Sandra Lee Fewer.
"Every week on the floor of Congress, Democrats bring forth a motion that says Donald Trump must release his tax returns. We have to ask the Republicans, why are you hiding the truth from the American people?" said Pelosi, standing beside a giant inflatable chicken with a Trump hairdo. "Donald Trump wants a tax policy that gives tax breaks to his billionaire friends at the expense of the poorest children in America."
"Who do you owe? We must know!" the crowd chanted in response.
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-San Jose) has pushed the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, requiring all presidential nominees of major political parties to publicly disclose three years of federal tax returns, Pelosi said.
In California, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has co-authored a bill that goes further, requiring future presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns in order to appear on the California primary ballot.
"Trump's lack of transparency is astounding, and his refusal to release his returns raises alarming questions," Wiener said in a statement. "Simply releasing his returns would clarify so many of these issues and rebuild trust with the American people. But President Trump doesn't appear to be interested in transparency and accountability."
The rally was followed by a spirited march that stretched down Market Street to the Embarcadero.
Tax Marches also took place in Washington, D.C. and more than 100 other cities across the U.S., including Walnut Creek and San Jose in the Bay Area.
Dueling rallies end in fisticuffs
Also on Saturday hundreds of Trump supporters and alt-right proponents – including explicit white nationalists and neo-Nazis – held a Patriot's Day "free speech" rally sponsored by the Liberty Revival Alliance at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley.
They were met by a similar number of anti-fascist and anti-Trump activists who held a cookout and "bloc party" in an attempt to outnumber the conservatives. The weekly Berkeley farmers market in the park was canceled for the first time ever in anticipation of the protests.
With its liberal reputation, Berkeley has become a flashpoint for such stand-offs following a raucous protest that shut down a speech by gay alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley February 1. A similar altercation happened at a pro-Trump rally at the same park in early March.
The two factions faced off in the park – clad in American flag gear and alt-right memes on one side and black clothes and face masks on the other – and battles spilled into the streets throughout the afternoon. Some protesters were armed with sticks and knives and set off firecrackers and released pepper spray. Several people on both sides were injured in the running brawls.
Police generally took a hands-off approach, but 20 people – mostly from the Bay Area – were arrested. Charges included assault with a deadly weapon, battery, inciting a riot, and wearing a mask while committing a criminal offense, according to a Berkeley police statement.
"Political violence of this sort is very rare in recent history, so this is new territory in a lot of ways," Alex Vitale, a former Bay Area activist and now associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We should keep in mind that even a well-crafted police strategy is going to have limits when you have two groups intent on fighting each other."
More confrontations could happen next week when the Berkeley College Republicans host a talk by right-wing columnist Ann Coulter April 27.
Science March on Saturday
The next big national action will be the Science March Saturday, April 22, celebrated as Earth Day. The main march will take place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and satellite marches are planned for more than 500 cities worldwide ( https://www.marchforscience.com/). The San Francisco march will start at 11 a.m. at Justin Herman Plaza and end at Civic Center (https://marchforsciencesf.com/).
Advocates oppose Trump's proposed deep cuts to scientific and medical research, and want the new administration to keep intact science-related federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
More than a hundred science-related organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association of Geographers, and, locally, the California Academy of Sciences and Monterey Bay Aquarium have signed on, according to Science magazine. But there has been some dissension from those who do not want to "politicize" science and think organizers are being deferential to left-leaning politics, noted a New York Times article.
Other upcoming events include the Day of Silence Friday, April 21, an annual student-led event to raise awareness about the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment in schools (www.glsen.org/day-of-silence). This year organizers are calling on state governors to implement inclusive LGBTQ non-discrimination policies in schools.
On Wednesday, April 26, Cleve Jones and other local activists will hold a working meeting for people who want to help with the "Rise and Resist" contingent for the San Francisco Pride parade. The meeting takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Audre Lorde Room at the San Francisco Women's Building, 3543 18th Street.
Jones said volunteers are needed to help with signs and banners, outreach and diversity, and social media.
Wiener will be joined by his Democratic San Francisco colleagues Assemblymen David Chiu and Phil Ting at a town hall Saturday, April 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Mission High School, 3750 18th Street. To RSVP, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/town-hall-with-san-franciscos-state-legislators-tickets-32926946383.
The People's Climate March will take place Saturday, April 29 in Washington, D.C., and other cities ( https://peoplesclimate.org/). Planning is underway for an array of protests, strikes, moratoriums, and boycotts on May 1.
Looking further ahead, on May 16, Equality California, in partnership with several other LGBT and HIV organizations across the state, will host the 2017 LGBT Advocacy Day at the State Capitol in Sacramento. For more information or to register, see https://secure.eqca.org/page/contribute/advocacy-day.