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Protesters across US press Trump to release tax returns

© AFP / by Ivan Couronne | Protestors take part in the "Tax March" to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records on April 15, 2017 in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

Thousands of protesters gathered Saturday in cities across the United States to pressure President Donald Trump to release his tax returns, a move of transparency he has refused to make.

"Until he does, we'll never know what he's hiding or who his policies are designed to benefit. We need a president who works for all Americans -- and a tax system that does, too," said the organizers of the "Tax March" demonstrations on its website.

The protests were timed to coincide with the traditional April 15 deadline for annual US tax filings.

In Washington, several thousand protesters of all ages gathered in front of the Capitol building housing Congress, holding signs such as "What is he hiding?" and "Real men pay their taxes."

A huge inflatable chicken with an orange-gold beak and a swirl of hair resembling Trump's was displayed on the sidelines of the Washington protest, and at other venues.

The figure -- seen by some as the unofficial mascot for the protest -- apparently meant to suggest that the Republican president was afraid, or chicken, to publish his tax records.

"If he's got nothing to hide, he should release his tax returns," said protester Liz Turner, 31.

Asked what she suspected was in them, Turner replied: "Maybe something to do with Russia?"

Ellen Lodwick, 67, a retired corporate researcher from Maryland who has participated in all the local anti-Trump demonstrations since his November 8 election, cast doubt on his business dealings.

"There are probably many illegal or questionable investments in things that could affect how he looks at government and legislation, because he's too connected," Lodwick said.

The protesters then marked along Pennsylvania Avenue in the direction of the White House, shouting "shame" as they passed by the Trump International Hotel.

In New York, thousands of protesters also marched, and demonstrations were held from Boston and Philadelphia on the East Coast to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles out West, and cities and towns in between.

In Berkeley, California violent clashes erupted between Trump supporters and opponents. At least 14 people were arrested, Berkeley police spokesman Byron White told CNN television.

- Tradition of tax releases -

For decades, US presidents and presidential candidates have released their tax returns voluntarily, although there is no legal requirement to do so. US law requires only the publication of a financial statement that estimates assets, including debt and revenue, but does not give details on the amount of taxes paid.

Trump, a billionaire property tycoon, released such a financial statement but has kept his tax returns private, both during the election campaign and since taking office in January.

Trump has justified his refusal to publish his returns by noting they are being audited. Federal tax authorities say that does not bar him from releasing the returns. Trump has repeatedly said he has used legal loopholes to minimize his tax burden.

"Disclosing tax returns is the very lowest ethical bar for a president, and we are going to insist that he clear it," Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, told the crowd in Washington.

Trump was not in the city during the demonstration; he is again spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Several hundred "Tax March" protesters demonstrated outside the exclusive property Saturday.

"Pay your taxes!" several people yelled as they marched. One of them, a young girl, held a small sign that read "Trump is a tax e-VADER" and showed an image of Darth Vader wearing a blond hairpiece.

In New York, several thousand protesters assembled around Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, at a demonstration that was to include a march to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, where Trump lived before his election.

by Ivan Couronne

© 2017 AFP