The recognition went something like this: demonstrators coming up Sixth Avenue at the Tax March in New York City would be chanting about wanting to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns. But just after crossing 47th Street, someone in the long line would happen to turn left and see the skyscraper looming above, and the big sign identifying it: News Corporation, home of conservative outlet Fox. Then a different chant would begin.
“Fox News is fake news,” went one. “Shame,” a new set of marchers chanted a few minutes later. Then: “Fire Bill O’Reilly. ” And: “Fox lies.” And always, a cascading series of boos. As marchers noticed the building, many middle fingers would rise up like spring flowers. A man dressed in a Captain America costume held his shield high for the length of the block, as if protecting fellow demonstrators’ from Rupert Murdoch’s bad vibes.
It was just a small moment of the Saturday protest, which drew thousands in New York City and more in over a hundred similar marches around the country. But it was emblematic of what the protests were about in the first place: the question of who cares about a breach of precedent. Trump is the first sitting president since Richard Nixon not to release tax returns, and he and his defenders have said that regular people just don’t care if he does or doesn’t. That perspective has been echoed by conservative-leaning pundits and spokespeople, including O’Reilly who poo-poohed the “weaponizing” of Trump’s tax returns by liberals.
Does anyone care about Trump’s tax returns besides “journalists,” as Trump has suggested? Up until now the only way to know would be to listen to the pundits who argue for one side or the other, and opinion polls (which do, by the way, indicate that Americans care about Trump’s tax returns).
The marches around the country were an attempt to show, by the number of physical bodies in attendance, that Americans do still care and aren’t happy.
The New York march did not draw the overwhelming numbers of the Women’s March in January, but thousands came out for a very specifically-focused protest months into Trump’s presidency.
Tax returns may not tell America everything about Trump dealings with foreign leaders and businesses that, judging from the number of Vladimir Putin signs on Saturday, were a high priority. But it’s one more precedent shattered, and a dangerous one given the potential for self-enrichment and entanglements for America’s first real estate developer commander in chief. That seemed to matter to marchers all along Sixth Avenue, not just in front of NewsCorp. And it wasn’t fake news.