Assist Tax Resisters Whose Property Is Seized

Another way people can assist and show solidarity with tax resisters is by coming to their assistance if their property is seized. Here are some examples:

Practical support

  • The War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund was established in . It helps war tax resisters who have had penalties and interest added to their tax bills and seized by the IRS by reimbursing them for a large portion of these additional charges.

    The more people we could recruit to shoulder the penalties and interest of resisters, the lighter the burden for everyone. With the modest help we could provide, conscientious resisters were able to keep on keeping on.

    The penalty fund had the added benefit of making us all tax resisters, not just those who withheld all or a portion of their income taxes. The base list of supporters has been as high as 800 people sharing the weight. In nearly every appeal, at least 200 people respond, usually more. In all we’ve paid out about $250,000 to help resisters stay in the struggle.

  • When the home of war tax resisters Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner was seized for back taxes, supporters came from near and far to maintain a 24-hour occupation of the home:

    [David] Dellinger and others have come from as far away as California to the Colrain [Massachusetts] house… Mr. Kehler and Ms. Corner continued to live in the house until they were arrested by Federal marshals last December. Since then, friends and supporters of the couple have arrived to occupy the almost empty house in week-long shifts marked by the Thursday “changing of the guard” ceremony. Because the house was sold in a Government auction in , all who go inside risk arrest for trespassing.…

    For Bonney Simons of St. Johnsbury, Vt., sleeping on a bedroll in the house is her first official act of civil disobedience. At 72 years of age, she said, it is time to “put your body where your mouth is.”

  • Suffragist tax resister Dora Montefiore barricaded her home and kept the tax collector from seizing her property for several weeks in , in what came to be known as the “Siege of Montefiore.” She noted:

    The tradespeople of the neighbourhood were absolutely loyal to us besieged women, delivering their milk and bread, etc., over the rather high garden wall which divided the small front gardens of Upper Mall from the terraced roadway fronting the river. The weekly wash arrived in the same way and the postman day by day delivered very encouraging budgets of correspondence, so that practically we suffered very little inconvenience…

    A woman sympathiser in the neighbourhood brought during the course of the [first] morning, a pot of home-made marmalade, as the story had got abroad that we had no provisions and had difficulty in obtaining food. This was never the case as I am a good housekeeper and have always kept a store cupboard, but we accepted with thanks the pot of marmalade because the intentions of the giver were so excellent

    Examples like this also proved to be vivid anecdotes that the press could use when describing the siege and the support from sympathizers.
  • When the U.S. government seized Amish tax resister Valentine Byler’s horses and their harnesses while he was in the field preparing for spring planting, sympathetic neighbors allowed him to borrow their horses so he could continue his work. Other sympathizers throughout the country who heard about the case sent Byler money — more than enough to buy a new team.
  • An auctioneer who was dragooned into helping the government sell some of the livestock of a man who had been resisting taxes meant to pay for sectarian education in , donated the fee he had earned for conducting the auction to the resister.
  • During the water charge strike in Dublin, “local campaign groups successfully resisted attempts to disconnect water and in the couple of instances where water was cut off, campaigners re-connected it within hours. The first round was won hands down by the campaign and it was back to the drawing board for the councils.”
  • Similar monkeywrenching is being practiced today in Greece, where activists promptly reconnect utilities of people who have been disconnected for failure to pay the increased taxes attached to their utility bills.
  • During the Annuity Tax resistance in Edinburgh, people sympathetic to the resisters would bid on and return furniture and other items that had been seized and sold by the tax collectors.
  • The Rebecca Rioters, on the other hand, were characteristically more direct in their resistance:

    Warrants of distress were issued… and the constables proceeded to execute them… The constables then went towards Talog; but when on their way there they heard the sound of a horn, and immediately between two and three hundred persons assembled together, with their faces blackened, some dressed in women’s caps, and others with their coats turned so as to be completely disguised — armed with scythes, crowbars and all manner of destructive weapons which they could lay their hands on. After cheering the constables, they defied them to do their duty. The latter had no alternative but to return to town without executing their warrants. The women were seen running in all directions to alarm their neighbours; and some hundreds were concealed behind the hedges, intending to appear if their services were required. The entire district seemed to be aroused, and awaiting the arrival of the constables, who were going to levy on the goods of John Harris of Talog Mill for the amount of the fine and costs imposed upon him by the magistrates. There could not have been less than two hundred persons assembled to resist the execution of process, and vast numbers were flocking from all quarters, in response to the blowing of a horn, the signal of the Rebeccaites to repair thither. Various mounted messengers were scouring the country and sounding the trumpet of alarm.…

    At Maesgwenllian near Kidwelly, several bailiffs were put in possession for arrears of rent to the amount of £150, but about , Rebecca and a great number of her followers made their appearance on the premises, and after driving the bailiffs off, took away the whole of the goods distrained on. As soon as daylight appeared, the bailiffs returned, but found no traces of Rebecca, nor of the goods which had been taken away.

  • A group in Olive Hill, Kentucky in followed the Rebecca model, to an extent, “in a raid… by a band of between 800 and 900 men, who forced Levi White, Collector of Taxes, to give up a stock of goods which had been seized. The goods were then taken back to the store of Levi Oppenheimer, where the official had seized them.”
  • Last year in Oaxaca, the PRI said that the would “defend up to the point of injunctions those citizens who suffer from liens imposed as well as judgments in order to prevent the impounding of vehicles, considering it unconstitutional that the police will impound them to stop the driver and remove the unit if the striker does not pay the corresponding [vehicle] tax.”
  • The IRS auctioned off a portion of Ralph Shinaberry’s property in after he refused to pay a fine for growing more wheat on his farm than his government-assigned quota. “I don’t believe the Government can tell me how much I can grow,” he said, explaining his resistance. The winning bidder, Herbert Jessup, told a reporter: “I have no intention of taking possession of the property.”
  • When war tax resister Cosmas Raimondi’s car was seized by the IRS in , a handful of families in his parish offered to permanently loan him their car so he could still get around, and many others loaned him their cars temporarily. “I’ve not had to ask one person,” he said.
  • In Beit Sahour, when the Israeli occupation authorities seized furniture and appliances from resisters, relatives and others would loan them spares, or camping furniture to use as replacements.
  • “In Bedfordshire in community pressure persuaded a minister to return goods seized from a Quaker for non-payment of tithes.”

Moral support

  • When Dora Montefiore was first formulating her “siege” strategy with fellow-activists Theresa Billington and Annie Kenney, they agreed to organize daily demonstrations outside of her home while she was defending it. Montefiore remembered:

    The feeling in the neighbourhood towards my act of passive resistance was so excellent and the publicity being given by the Press in the evening papers was so valuable that we decided to make the Hammersmith “Fort” for the time being the centre of the W.S.P.U. activities, and daily demonstrations were arranged for and eventually carried out. … The roadway was… ideal for the holding of a meeting, as no blocking of traffic could take place, and day in, day out the principles for which suffragists were standing we expounded to many who before had never even heard of the words Woman Suffrage. At the evening demonstrations rows of lamps were hung along the top of the wall and against the house, the members of the W.S.P.U. speaking from the steps of the house, while I spoke from one of the upstairs windows.

    …shoals of letters came to me, a few sadly vulgar and revolting, but the majority helpful and encouraging. Some Lancashire lads who had heard me speaking in the Midlands wrote and said that if I wanted help they would come with their clogs but that was never the sort of support I needed, and though I thanked them, I declined the help as nicely as I could. … The working women from the East End came, time and again, to demonstrate in front of my barricaded house…

  • When the IRS seized and auctioned off the home and farm of Art Harvey and Elizabeth Gravalos in , other war tax resisters and supporters were by their sides:

    “I might have cried if I were alone,” Gravalos admitted. But she was far from alone. About 75 supporters gathered outside the building and spoke of their solidarity with Elizabeth and Arthur.

    About 35 supporters turned up for the second auction, this time held at the IRS office in Lewiston, Maine. Demonstrators read excerpts from letters to IRS officials and to President Clinton urging them to call off the auction.

  • In , the IRS levied 78-year-old war tax resister Ruth McKay’s social security checks to recoup the taxes she had been refusing to pay over the previous 20 years. To show their support of her stand, 40 activists from New Hampshire Peace Action joined her for a vigil at the federal courthouse in Concord, New Hampshire.
  • When war tax resister Maria Smith’s wages were garnisheed by the IRS in , fifty supporters held a special church service in her honor.
  • “One of the Valod Vanias,” whose land was seized by the government during the Bardoli satyagraha, “who thus lost all his valuable property, celebrated the event by inviting friends and soldiers of Satyagraha to a party.”

On the other hand, some campaigns have taken the position that sacrifices for the cause are their own reward — that martyrdom is a blessing and that it would be foolish for such resisters to seek or accept recompense.

Nathaniel Morgan was speaking with someone curious about the Quaker stand on war and war taxes, and had this to say:

I told him then that I and my father had refused to pay the income tax on account of war, and had refused it on its first coming out, and withstood it 16 years, except when peace was declared, and that our goods were sold by auction to pay it. This seemed to excite his curiosity, and made a stand to hear further, on the steps above the engine, going down to the river; asking me if we got anything by that, meaning, was anything refunded by the Society for such suffering. I immediately replied: “Yes, peace of mind, which was worth all.”