El Paso Students Buy American Flags but Refuse to Pay 1¢ Sales Tax

Here’s a good example of a tax resistance campaign incorporating symbolic and media-friendly aspects into their tactics.

This comes from the El Paso [Texas] Herald-Post for :

Put Pennies Into “Escrow”

NSA Members Refuse to Pay Tax on American Flags

by Peter Brock

What is the worth of ten small American flags purchased at a Downtown El Paso store?

Is it the $5 retail price charged by Moses and Louise Springer who operate their modest variety store at 617 North Stanton street?

Is it the 10 cent tax collected for the State of Texas?

Is it the ten copper pennies that clinked into the bottom of a large empty jar marked “tax” which would have normally been accepted by the Springers as the El Paso sales tax?

Is it worth that ten cents sales tax carried out of the store in the same jar to be held in “escrow” for the people of South El Paso?

Instead of the shot heard round the world, is it to be the “clink” heard round America to begin a “tax payer’s revolt,” as Bill Shamblin, a former student at the University of Alabama, put it, who was among the other dozen or so delegates out of 1500 to the 22nd Annual National Student Association Congress now meeting in El Paso that decided to enforce, not force, an issue over the moral destiny of ten dirty pennies?

The NSA Delegates strode out of the Cortez Hotel and up the three blocks to the Springer’s store in a hot afternoon sun. They walked into the store and finally selected 10 small American flags and lined up at the counter as Mrs. Springer rang up the sale of the first purchase on the cash register. Fifty-two cents was the total price including the state and local sales tax.

Shamblin politely asked Mrs. Springer how much the City sales tax was and she replied that it was one cent and the state sales tax was a penny also. Shamblin then handed her 51 cents and dropped a copper disc into a jar next to him held by a girl, explaining that he would pay Mrs. Springer the state tax and the price of the flag she was wrapping in a brown paper sack, but that the one cent city sales tax he was putting into an escrow fund.

Shamblin walked away from the counter with his flag and was immediately replaced by David Ifshin, student body president of Syracuse University in New York, who likewise paid for his flag while again speaking of the sales tax that should go to aid the people of South El Paso and not a $13 million civic center.

Shamblin and Ifshin, who heads the NSA’s Committee on Repressive taxation, moved directly to waiting newsmen and explained their actions as being the beginning of a nationwide tax revolt that would be carried to college campuses next month.

“Businessmen are the ones who should be paying for the Civic Center,” said Shamblin, “not the poor people in South El Paso.”

“This is a symbolic protest,” said Ifshin. “Our main goal is to attract attention, not to the Springers, not to the money, but to show the rest of the world what things are like in El Paso as well as everywhere else.”

The beginning of the sales tax boycott came after two days of rumors among the NSA Congress that action would be taken on a resolution passed by the board of directors of NSA to urge nonpayment of the sales and hotel taxes incurred by the delegates while in El Paso until .

One member of the group that went to the Springer’s store said that the reason for the selection of that particular store was because the Springers allegedly owned a tenement house in South El Paso that was in bad repair and had recently caused injuries to a now hospitalized occupant who fell down a set of dangerous stairs.

After making their purchases, the group left the store and turned to the hotel.

Moses Springer was asked what he was going to do about the absent sales tax.

“I’m going to pay it myself to avoid a confrontation,” he said, stoically. “I don’t have any other choice.”

When told of Springer’s intention to pay the sales tax out of his own pocket, Shamblin hesitated for a moment and then said that it was a shame that Springer didn’t live up to his “real obligation.”

“But he’s a businessman,” Shamblin said, “and so he should be the one to pay for the Civic Center anyway.”

An El Paso attorney, Jesus Ochoa Jr., who recently stimulated NSA delegates’ interest in opposing payment of a sales tax that he felt did not fairly benefit all the citizens of El Paso, told The Herald-Post that he had been criticized because of the “ethical innuendos” of a story of his appearance before ’s first NSA plenary session in which he urged “creative dissent” through opposition to the sales tax.

“The kids are not refusing to pay the taxes, as I understand it,” Ochoa said. “What they are doing is telling the retailer, ‘Mr. Retailer, out of this $10 we owe you ten cents tax. We are protesting the manner in which this tax is collected and put to use in this city.’ ”

“No, they’re not griping about the state sales tax. They are perfectly willing to pay the city sales tax, but into a trust fund, feeling that this shifts the moral responsibility to the city administration. The Mayor will be told where it’s at, and he can initiate whatever steps are necessary to collect the money. This is clearly not a refusal to pay the tax, but is instead payment of the tax into a fund under protest.

“One of the reasons behind this protest action,” explained Ochoa, “is that part of this money goes to pay a city-county health director who is charged by law with the responsibility of enforcing health laws. It doesn’t take a man of great intelligence to go into the southside and the slums and see the flagrant violations of the most basic health laws.

“I think that youth has for the past two or three years begun to get sick and tired of the double standards of morality, and I think the reports that have been funded by the federal government and by private funds that talk about two societies have made this abundantly clear.

“Father Hartford, when he introduced Anotnio Moreno who was born and who continues to live in the southside, made mention of the fact that he (Fr. Hartford) was welcoming the NSA delegates on behalf of the ‘second city,’ the southside, the poor, the generally disenfranchised, the people who sweat a penny from every dollar to pay for a civic center.

“I am not opposed to the Civic Center. I am opposed to the idea that the poor can be taxed to build something that results in precious little benefit to them. I think the poor would have no objection to being taxed if the City would see its way clear to bettering conditions in the southside.”

Ochoa reaffirmed that he had no “personal gripes” against the present city administration, but while he complimented Mayor deWetter’s current efforts to rectify living conditions in South El Paso, he added that he did not think enough had been done.

“We all believe in law and order, and here we have a housing law that is not being enforced. And so the people complain,” said Ochoa.

Mayor Peter de Wetter met with the student officers late and told the students they are not hurting the city revenue, but the local businessmen.

From the Monmouthshire Merlin:

The gate breakers seem determined to carry out their object. During the past week there have been several cases of gate destruction near Llandehie and Carmarthen. The Croesllwyd gate, near this town, having been destroyed some time since, was replaced by two large posts with a chain across them. On , in broad daylight, this bar was demolished by a party of Rebeccaites disguised, who compelled the toll collector to fly across the fields towards Carmarthen. The Porthyrhyd gate was destroyed for a third time, and the toll collector and a special constable severely thrashed by the followers of ’Becca. A hot house and some outhouses, at Llanon, the property of Mr. R[ees].G[oring]. Thomas [elsewhere described as “lay-impropriator of the tithes of the parish”], have, it is said, been much injured. The Glangwilly gate was destroyed , and the toll-house was levelled with the ground in a very short time. The dragoons from Carmarthen were patrolling the country in the neighbourhood of the gate until , almost immediately after which time the gate and toll-house were destroyed. The gatekeeper was obliged to fly for his life, loud threats against him being expressed by the Rebeccaites, who said they would tar and feather him, if they caught him. It is said that he can identify some of the party.

A daring outrage was committed at Llanon, on . A party of rioters, many hundreds in number, headed by Rebecca, beset the house of Mr. Edwards, an impropriator of tithes, and shot at him through the window as he lay ill in bed; his wife and daughter being endangered by the shots. Miss Edwards at length induced them to depart; but they ravaged the garden, and fired at a woman, wounding a child that she held in her arms.

Four men, inhabitants of Abergwilly, or the neighbourhood, were apprehended this evening, charged with having been concerned in the destruction of Glangwilly gate, on .