CHICAGO (AP) — Thousands of chanting, sign-carrying protesters took to the streets in cities across the nation Saturday, demanding that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, so Americans can scrutinize his business ties and potential conflicts of interest.
Violent clashes were the exception during the largely peaceful demonstrations, but in Berkeley, California, police arrested 13 people and confiscated knives and makeshift weapons after fistfights broke out between factions that support and oppose Trump.
Trump was the first major-party nominee in more than 40 years not to release his tax returns, saying it was because he was under audit. He later said that voters don’t care.
But 71-year-old Ilene Singh said he’s wrong. She rode a bus from New Jersey to New York City with her friend Geraldine Markowitz, 83, to take part in protests. “We’re here to say we care,” said Singh.
Pushing her walker, Karin Arlin, 85, a Holocaust survivor who came to the U.S. from Germany when she was 9, said she’s also worried about the direction of the country.
“You don’t know which way the country goes,” said Arlin next to her 89-year-old husband who fled Czechoslovakia during World War II. “I hope Republicans see it.”
Actress and producer Justine Bateman, who addressed several thousand people at a rally in downtown Los Angeles, said Americans need “financial statement proof” that Trump is not beholden to any business interests or country other than the U.S.
In Washington, D.C., one of Trump’s sharpest critics in the House spoke to protesters at the U.S. Capitol just before they set off on a march to the National Mall. Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, of California, said there’s nothing to prevent Trump from releasing his income taxes and that “the simple truth is he’s got a lot to hide.”
“If he thinks he can get away with playing king, he’s got another thought coming,” Waters said.
The 13 arrests in Berkeley came Saturday after about 200 people gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park for separate rallies and pushing and fistfights began. Officers confiscated knives, flagpoles, helmets and sticks with signs on them, things that were being used as weapons.
In Last Vegas, police said a broadcast photojournalist for KLAS-TV was arrested and cited for trespassing and obstructing during a protest at Trump International Hotel near the Strip. Event organizer Laura Martin says at least three others were detained but released. Authorities said the protest was attended by about 250 people.
For four decades, presidents and major party nominees have released some of their tax returns, with the exception of Gerald Ford. Trump’s break with precedent has raised questions about possible conflicts of interest.
Protesters in Raleigh, North Carolina, said they suspect that Trump’s returns might show he has paid little or nothing to the government he now heads, or that he was indebted to Russian, Chinese or other foreign interests.
“His reputation … as a businessman and, more importantly, as a true American, a person who is concerned with American values, would be totally destroyed if all his financial information was made public,” said Mike Mannshardt, a retired teacher.
Democrats are pushing for a vote on a bill from Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, which would require the president and all major-party nominees to publicly disclose their previous three years of tax returns with the Office of Government Ethics or the Federal Election Commission.
Republicans also have rebuffed Democrats’ efforts to get the House Ways and Means Committee to act. It has legal authority to obtain confidential tax records, and could vote to make them public.
Many demonstrators said they hoped Saturday’s marches would convince Trump to voluntarily release them.
“We do care. We want to see his taxes,” said Ann Demerlis, who was among hundreds who marched in Philadelphia from City Hall to an area in front of historic Independence Hall, carrying signs and chanting “We want your taxes now!”
Tuesday is the deadline for taxpayers to file returns.