From tweets to the streets: Nationwide anti-Trump 'Tax Day' marches came together on social media

Will Trump's taxes be subpoenaed in probe?
Will Trump's taxes be subpoenaed in probe?

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Story highlights

  • For Jennifer Taub, the issues animating the protests go beyond Trump's refusal to make his tax records public
  • A January poll found that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe Trump should release his returns

(CNN)Jennifer Taub wrote a book on the 2008 financial crisis, delivered expert testimony to Congress and published reams of research and analysis on white collar crime and malfeasance.

But it was a few quick tweets, provoked by White House adviser Kellyanne Conway's claim that in electing Donald Trump, Americans showed they "didn't care" about his tax returns, that set into motion what organizers are now expecting will be more than 180 protest marches attracting tens of thousands -- at least -- in 48 states nationwide.
The idea was simple enough. A rebuke to Conway, whose comments Taub called "awfully arrogant and tone deaf" in an interview.
    "Let's plan a nationwide #DivestDonald and #showusyourtaxes protest for Saturday, April 15," she tweeted on January 22, frustrated but still buzzing in the aftermath of the massive Women's March demonstrations the day before.
    "I was annoyed and that's when I shot off that tweet, and would have thought nothing of it," Taub said. "But then it suddenly had this incredible velocity."
    People began to reach out almost immediately, asking if they could lend a hand. But the Vermont Law School professor was caught flat-footed.
    "I was thinking, 'uh-oh, help! I'm not doing anything,'" she said. "I wrote 140, or less, characters. I'm not an organizer."
    Taub paused to correct herself: "I wasn't."
    By Monday, less than 24 hours after her first tweet, the push was on. Facebook pages sprung up by the dozens, along with "Tax March" Twitter accounts. A Huffington Post story, published early that morning, declared "activists on social media are hoping to use a rally on April 15 to pressure the President into releasing his tax returns." Taub got in touch with the comedian Frank Lesser, who had posited a similar idea, and within a few days organizers had formed an "executive committee" and launched a website.
    For Taub, the issues animating the protests go beyond Trump's refusal to make his tax records public, a tradition that goes back four decades to the Watergate era, when government officials came under heightened public pressure to be more transparent about their personal dealings.
    "(Trump) needs to make a choice," she said on Thursday. "Are you going to be a President in the public interest, or are you actually just assuming this office to be another marketing opportunity to line your pocket? Is this a 'friends and family' plan, or are you a President in the public interest? To me, all of this is tied together."
    More seasoned political hands agree.
    "Trump keeps saying that it's only the media who cares about his taxes. This weekend's marches will prove that's not true -- the people care," said Joe Dinkin, national communications director for the Working Families Party, one of the progressive political organizations now helping coordinate the march. "And the reason the people care is because without seeing Trump's taxes, we'll never know what foreign business entanglements he has, and we can't be sure in whose interests he is really working."
    An ABC News/Washington Post poll from January found that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe Trump should release his returns. A White House petition demanding them, posted on Inauguration Day, quickly surpassed a million signatures.
    Ezra Levin, co-founder and executive director of the Indivisible Project, an advocacy group that opposes Trump's agenda, and a Tax March board member, told CNN the protests are "about much more than seeing somebody's 1040 form." The issue resonates, he said, because it touches on everything from the Trump campaign's alleged Russian ties to accusations the new President is doing business in violation of constitutional restrictions.
    "This is about transparency, ethics, and the basic functioning of our democracy," Levin said in an email. "Taxpaying Americans across the country want to know what he's hiding, and Congress has the power to find out. That's what the tax marches across the country are all about -- local constituents asking their own representatives to perform their constitutional duty to act as a check on an out-of-control President."
    Indivisible and its allies established their influence during the failed GOP push to repeal and replace Obamacare, when Republican officials were swamped by angry voters at town hall meetings as part of a pressure campaign to derail the House bill. But Trump's taxes -- which a House panel has already voted along party lines against requesting -- could be a tougher nut to crack.
    Still, at least two prominent elected Democrats are scheduled speak at the march in Washington: Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and the fierce Trump critic from California, Rep. Maxine Waters.
    Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren recorded a video calling attention to Trump's foreign business connections for the progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org Civic Action, and Our Revolution, the political organization spawned by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, is tapping into its vaunted email list to encourage supporters to join the march.
    And then there is the Trump chicken.
    Not to be confused with "Donald Duck," the prominent protest poultry from during the 2016 campaign, the march mascot with the signature orange coif has been making the rounds in Washington and is expected to pop up at events around the country.
    Organizers were initially hesitant about embracing the inflatable fowl, but as Taub recalled, "Somebody on our executive committee said, 'Well, you can't really have a blow-up balloon of the US Constitution.'"