Hundreds of Massachusetts residents gathered on the Boston Common Sunday to voice their opposition to the impending GOP tax bill.
The “Stop the GOP Tax Bill” rally, organized by a group of local residents, featured speakers from a number of social justice organizations in the Boston area. Attendees chanted and carried signs throughout the protest, and participated in a visual demonstration of U.S. wealth inequality after the speeches ended.
A version of the tax bill has been passed in the U.S. House and the Senate, and both include provisions that would cut taxes for individuals and corporations, Eric Lustig, a New England Law, Boston professor, said.
Lustig said the final version of the bill could reduce the number of individual tax rates, increase the standard deduction for taxpayers, tax tuition waivers for graduate students and university endowments, eliminate deductions for state and local property taxes and lower the corporate tax rate.
Elements of these provisions would increase economic pressure on the lower and middle classes by inflating costs for health care and increasing tax rates for students, among other effects, while further adding to the wealth of corporate powers, organizers wrote on the Facebook page for the rally.
Martin Hamilton, one of the organizers, said prior to the demonstration that he and the other organizers created the event to join in with other protests against the tax bill happening across the country.
“We saw an opportunity to bring a lot of groups together, and talk about work that different organizations are doing here in the state and how those affect people in Massachusetts in the same way that the tax plan will affect people,” he said.
The protest began with an address from emcee Alyssa Lee, who said the rally-goers were gathered to feel powerful and come together as a community.
“We are here united against this tax bill and everything it’s going to do to our communities, to our futures,” she said. “It’s going to continue to take away from us and give our wealth directly to those who need it the least.”
The first speaker of the day was Vernon Walker, a member of the Poor People’s Campaign, who told the crowd he believes the tax bill is a “moral atrocity.”
“I’m here today because this is a people’s thing — it’s not a black thing, it’s not a white thing, but it’s a people’s thing,” he said. “It was here in Massachusetts that the American Revolution started and change began to happen. We’ve got to keep on marching until victory is won.”
Vernon’s address was followed by a speech from Janhavi Madabushi of the Asian American Resource Workshop, who called the tax bill an attack against those who don’t have power or privilege in American society.
“We know even a shallow examination of history would tell us that injustice like this is commonplace in the United States, and an examination would also allow us to know that resistance has been just as strong,” Janhavi said.
After an address from Michael VanElzakker, who represented the Massachusetts People’s Budget Campaign and spoke about the disproportionate amount of money given to the country’s military-industrial complex, attendees heard from Michael Kane, the executive director of the MASS Alliance of HUD Tenants.
Kane said the housing crisis in the U.S. stems from cuts to the federal budget, which he said will only see more cuts over the next 10 years to fund the tax bill.
After the speakers finished, Lee divided the crowd into groups and used trash bags labeled with dollar signs to represent how much wealth is controlled by the top 10 percent, one percent and 0.1 percent of the population.
“We all know this is unfair, we know the GOP tax plan is going to make things worse,” she said. “The one percent’s going to keep looking out for themselves, but we can keep looking out for each other.”
Several attendees expressed great concern for the tax bill and its implications, but said they were glad the rally provided them with an opportunity to voice opposition.
Nancy Slamet, 46, of Winthrop, said she was impressed by the grassroots nature of the event.
“It was just a group of friends who got together and brought together a bunch of organizations to continue a movement which is so important at this time,” she said. “This is just so worrying because I can’t see [wealth inequality] getting better, only worse.”
Gita Foster, 53, of Newton, said as a parent of two college students, she found the provision that would tax tuition waivers for graduate students especially concerning.
“The bill will hurt many more people than it will help, and the people that it will help don’t need the help,” she said.
Joanne Reeves, 66, of Marshfield, said she was concerned the cost of the bill will cause cuts to social security, Medicaid and other entitlement programs in the years to come.
“It’s a bill that was originally supposed to be reform, but it doesn’t seem to be as much of that,” Reeves said. “It’s not doing what Trump said it was going to do at the beginning, that it was going to be a tax benefit for the middle class.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article had Eric Lustig’s affiliation as New England School of Law rather than New England Law, Boston. It also used the term “tax structures” instead of “individual tax rates.” The updated version reflects these corrections.