Our Tax The Rich Rallies--An Instant Protest Success (First Person)

By Harry Brill
Monday January 30, 2012 - 09:39:00 AM

In early September, Evelyn Glaubman, who is a local artist, expressed her outrage to several of us about the unjustifiably low taxes paid by the rich and major corporations. She made a bunch of nicely designed posters and proposed that we publicize our concerns on Solano Avenue. None of us needed convincing. On September 12th, ten indignant protesters, mainly senior citizens, descended on Solano, by the closed Oak Theater on one side of the street and the Chase Bank on the other. We held up our signs, gave out leaflets, and engaged in conversations with people walking by. 

To our delight, we were an instant success. Many drivers honked their horns in approval and some pedestrians even thanked us for what we were doing. We have held these rallies in the same location every week since. Although the number of those who attend from one week to another fluctuates, just two weeks ago, which is about four months since these rallies began, we reached 120 protesters. 

The widespread view that until the Occupy movement there has been little or no interest in such issues as inequitable taxes is incorrect. Our first and very successful rally began five days before the first Occupy event. What we quickly learned is that many people share our indignation but don't know quite what to do about it. They do want to express themselves collectively but are uncomfortable with engaging in illegal action and confrontational politics. We were able to meet their needs to protest without breaking the law. 

As someone who has been involved in confrontational politics for many decades, I am convinced that militant direct action is frequently necessary to achieve progressive political objectives. But what strategies to best employ should be mainly influenced by what our goals are. Some important achievements can also be made by conventional means. That applies to what the Tax The Rich Rallies are trying to accomplish. 

Our major goal is to contribute toward building a majority movement, which obviously requires that large numbers of people who have not participated join us. We also want people to feel comfortable on the street because the street is among the best venue for attracting others and for attracting attention. Our posters, leaflets, and our very important one-on-one conversations with others in the neighborhood are directed toward building our numbers. Also, several of us take the responsibility of not just talking to those we want to involve but by engaging in brief conversations with as many protesters as we can during our demonstrations. We even introduce people to each other. And very important, we offer live music performed by first rate musicians who call themselves the Occupella group. Their music is not only thoroughly enjoyable. It is also inspirational. These approaches along with others help us attract newcomers. 

By becoming a weekly fixture on Solano Avenue, we find that those in this neighborhood have become accustomed to us. In fact, some neighborhood residents, and those coming to Solano to dine at one of the street's many restaurants, join us on their own and even request that we add them to our mailing list. While playing a political role, they are also very much enjoying the social dimension. Together we have created a community on the streets.  

So far we have been involving more and more people and we are serving an important educational function. But that is not all. A very important proposed initiative to permanently increase taxes for ONLY those earning over a million dollars has been proposed by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) along with other unions and community organizations. Unfortunately, Governor Brown is proposing a competing ballot measure that would raise less money, would be temporary, and worse of all, includes increasing the regressive sales tax. Unbelievably, Brown justified including a higher sales tax "because I thought we ought to have a balanced program". 

Along with other progressive organizations, we will attempt to obtain a majority vote on the proposed millionaires tax referendum in California. Simultaneously, we will use this opportunity to build a populist organization that will continue to work against inequality in our society. Win, lose, or draw, we will develop our skills, increase our self-confidence, develop an even closer sense of community among ourselves, and build close relationships with other organizations. We are already off to a good start. 

If you haven't already, we hope you will participate in our Tax The Rich Rallies. We rally every Monday, 4:30-5:30pm toward the top of Solano by the closed Oak Theater and the Chase bank. If you would like to be on our mailing list, please write to: harry.brill@sbcglobal.net