Duluth tax rally gets rowdyMore than 50 protesters on the steps of Duluth’s Judge Gerald Heaney Federal Building on Tuesday afternoon called on Congress to adopt the Buffett Rule, while an earlier gathering at the Rainbow Senior Center turned into more of a verbal confrontation between left and right.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
More than 50 protesters on the steps of Duluth’s Judge Gerald Heaney Federal Building on Tuesday afternoon called on Congress to adopt the Buffett Rule, while an earlier gathering at the Rainbow Senior Center turned into more of a verbal confrontation between left and right.
At the federal building rally, Angela Krick of Duluth said it’s time for the government to address the growing disparity in earnings between the super-rich and the rest of society.
“The gap between the 99 percent and the top 1 percent is growing bigger every day,” she said in support of the Obama administration-backed proposal named for Warren Buffett after the financier’s observation that he paid a lesser percentage of his income in taxes than did his secretary.
The administration reports that 22,000 U.S. households made more than $1 million in 2009 but paid a tax rate of less than 15 percent. If passed, a new tax bill would require Americans who earn $1 million to $2 million to pay at a rate approaching 30 percent.
“It’s time for these tax dodgers to pay what they owe,” said Peder Nelson of Duluth.
“I have paid my fair share in property taxes my whole life, even when I’ve been unemployed,” Nelson continued, noting that he’s jobless.
Warren Howe, another participant, said the rule would at least begin to fix fundamental fairness issues in the tax system, pointing to a recent poll that showed 72 percent of the American public supported the Buffett Rule.
One who does not is Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack of Minnesota’s 8th District.
“If he opposes the Buffett Rule, who is Chip Cravaack supporting?” Howe said.
But Cravaack steadfastly criticized the bill Tuesday, releasing a statement calling it a “tax hike on our nation’s job creators.”
“Even the president agrees that the ‘Buffett Rule’ is nothing more than a ‘gimmick’ and will do nothing to close the deficit,” Cravaack said in the statement. “In fact, if enacted, it would only reduce our annual deficit of $1.2 trillion by less than half of 1 percent.”
Although they were in the minority, a contingent of the congressman’s supporters attended the tax day rally, too, holding “Cravaack for Congress” signs in front of cameras and occasionally interrupting speakers.
Earlier in the day, a forum on Medicare and Medicaid at the Rainbow Senior Center turned into more of a verbal confrontation between rival factions.
The forum, which Rainbow Center coordinator Cathie McGovern said was attended by 65 to 70 people, was sponsored by the group Take Action Minnesota. Its Duluth organizer is Allen Richardson, who also is involved in the Occupy Duluth movement.
McGovern said two Tea Party members “came in at the beginning, kind of like the heavyweights. But then they were told to leave and they did leave.”
Israel Malachi of Duluth said he and Paul King were the two Tea Party members who were escorted away from the event.
King spoke before the event, telling the audience that he and Malachi had a different view from what they’d be hearing, Malachi said.
“They said you can’t be here,” Malachi said. “A couple of people grabbed him and I and escorted us out. It wasn’t violent.”
But disruptive behavior continued throughout the 40-minute event, McGovern said.
“There were two people that really did not want to relinquish the floor,” she said. “They would not quit asking questions. … Very little information got out because of the sidetracking by the Tea Party.”
Becky Hall, a well-known Tea Party member who often portrays Betsy Ross at rallies, said she was at the event, but only came to learn more about the topic. Hall said she asked one question and “voiced one concern,” speaking for about a minute. After that, she said, Occupy Duluth member Tyler Nord “came right over to me and got real close, a little too close for comfort, really — into my personal space.”
She said she felt like she was being singled out.
Nord acknowledged approaching Hall, but he said it was because he felt her question hadn’t been answered and he wanted to give her an answer.
He said he got no closer to her than 3 feet. But he felt that Hall was “soapboxing,” and he held up a sign that said, “Questions, not soapboxing,” Nord said.
McGovern said she had thought the event would be nonpartisan and thought organizers had misled her.
“They seemed to expect this,” she said of the organizers. “And I really wish they had clued me in first. (The conflict) frightens older adults.”