While protesters of their parents’ generation have been criticized for losing their revolutionary fervor once they got older and started paying taxes, a new generation of protesters took action yesterday because they had paid their taxes.
Nearly 30 Yalies gathered on Beinecke Plaza Monday to burn copies of federal income tax forms, blending tax day with a campus tradition of protest that has included draft card burning, camp-outs against sweatshops and shantytowns to condemn apartheid.
In protest of the District of Columbia’s lack of voting representation in Congress, the group, about half of whom hailed from the nation’s capitol, mixed whimsy with their outrage at what they referred to as “taxation without representation.”
“We have no voice in the government under which we live!” shouted Josh Foer ’04, who organized the rally.
“Hey, those are my parents!” one of the protesters shouted back jokingly.
As passersby stopped and occasionally joined in the shouting and two local television camera crews filmed, the group listened to a brief introduction from Foer before they began burning the 1040s.
The capitol has a representative in Congress, but she lacks voting power. Several measures — including statehood, a constitutional amendment and making D.C. a part of Maryland — have been debated over the last 200 years to get the district a congressional vote, but none has been successful.
Foer organized the event in conjunction with a similar “Bonfire of the 1040s” held in Washington, sponsored by D.C. Vote, an advocacy group for which Foer volunteered this summer.
“It’s time to bring democracy to the heart of democracy,” Foer said before picking up a metal garbage pail and a stack of photocopied federal income tax forms. “Alright everybody, burn your taxes!”
After a brief delay because of problems with his lighter, Foer started a small blaze that, within minutes, engulfed the stack of forms in the garbage pail and then blew into the wind.
Though they punctuated their protests with boos, laughter and what bordered on mockery, D.C. residents said they had not lost sight of their serious cause.
“The fun comes from the fact that we’re proud we’re from D.C.,” Lex Paulson ’02 said. “But we have a serious commitment to getting a voice. Voting rights are basic.”
Others came for the conflagration.
“What is this?” one student walking by asked.
“I have no idea. They’re gonna burn stuff, though,” one of the protesters responded.
Foer acknowledged that the issue does have a humorous side.
“It’s sort of a fun issue because it is so black and white,” Foer said.
But others did not find it such a laughing matter.
“We want to decide how our federal tax dollars are spent,” Jacob Remes ’02 said. “It’s a matter of basic human rights.”
Remes is a staff columnist for the Yale Daily News.
The protest, which began at 1 p.m., was over and mostly disbanded by the time a campus police officer rode up to Beinecke on a bike at 1:15.
“Somebody reported a huge bonfire,” the officer said.
The few protesters who had lingered around laughed at the exaggeration before taking their trash can and going home.
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