I.R.S. Headquarters Blockaded by Protesters

Frida Berrigan, at New Left Notes, covers last week’s blockade of the IRS headquarters. Excerpts:

We had a great action on ! The War Resisters League march from McPherson Square to the IRS got off to a late start. But the Rude Mechanical Orchestra was worth the wait. The Bread and Puppet banners were held high above the street and (when they were not getting tangled in Washington’s trees) were beautiful. WRLers handed out probably one thousand pie charts along the route.

The media was out in force, literally waiting for activists to get to the IRS. A forest of TV antennas.

The police were waiting at the main entrance. They had done our work for us, blocking the entrance there. But they had left the side entrance completely open. So people blocked both sides. For about an hour, the group (maybe 100 people) chanted and sang along with Rude Mechanical as the IRS headquarters was surrounded by “war crime scene tape.”

We made war tax resistance part of the fifth “anniversary” story. We were serious and committed and our message was easy to understand.

David Beito, who has written the book on property tax resistance in the U.S. during the Great Depression, profiles one of the movers-and-shakers of that movement — John Morgan Pratt — on History News Network.


John Morgan Pratt led probably the largest tax strike in the United States since the Era of the American Revolution.

In , Pratt quit his newspaper job to take the helm as executive director of the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers (ARET), an organization of real-estate taxpayers in Chicago and Cook County.… , ARET organized a major tax strike.…

ARET functioned primarily as a cooperative legal service. Each member paid annual dues of $15 to fund lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of real-estate assessments. The radical side of the movement became apparent by when ARET called for taxpayers to withhold real-estate taxes (or “strike”) pending a final ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, and later the U.S. Supreme Court. Mayor Anton Cermak and other politicians desperately tried to break the strike by threatening criminal prosecution of Pratt and other ARET leaders and revocation of city services.

ARET’s influence peaked in , with a membership approaching 30,000 (largely skilled workers and small-business owners). By this time, it had a budget of over $600,000 and a radio show in Chicago. But it suffered a demoralizing blow in when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case it had brought. Buffeted by political coercion and legal defeats, and torn by internal factionalism, the strike collapsed in .

Jim Henley, at Unqualified Offerings, posts one of the funniest responses to the flood of five-years-later war hawk journalist semi-apologies we’ve been seeing lately. It starts off:

So many publications have expressed such overwhelming interest in the perspectives of those of us who opposed the Iraq War when it had a chance of doing good that I have had to permit multiple publication of this article in most of the nation’s elite media venues — collecting, I am almost embarrassed to admit, a separate fee from each. Everyone recognizes that the opinions of those of us who were right about Iraq then are crucial to formulating sane, just policy now. It’s a lot of pressure, so please forgive anything glib or short you read herein: between articles, interviews, think-tank panels and presentations before government agencies and policy organs I’m not permitted to mention, I’m a little frazzled.

And it keeps getting better from there.