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Protests And Arrests On The Rise As Republicans Near New Tax Law

Protesters were removed from the gallery of the House chamber today as Republicans prepared to vote on their $1.5 trillion tax cut package. The disruption was the latest in a series of demonstrations and attempts to get lawmakers' attention and prevent the passage of the bill.

Minutes later, House Republicans voted to pass the bill 227-203, leaving the next step to the Senate before sending the bill to the president.

In the last few weeks, more than 200 activists have been arrested by Capitol Police alone. Most are removed by Capitol Police for refusing to move from public spaces, according to the agency.

A video posted on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch web site Monday evening shows more than a dozen activists chanting at the Capitol building, hands bound behind their backs, surrounded by police officials. And two weeks ago, a dozen graduate students from six states were arrested for protesting outside the Capitol Hill office of House Speaker Paul Ryan. The protest occurred a week after thousands of graduate students staged walkouts objecting to the GOP tax plan.

A coalition of grassroots groups across the nation, including organizers with Indivisible, Center for Popular Democracy and the Women's March are encouraging activists to demonstrate and stop the new legislation, which will provide large tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

On Monday, hundreds of groups throughout the country led local protests united online under the hashtag #TrumpTaxScam. The wave of public outcry comes on the heels of a new analysis released from the Congressional Budget Office estimating that low to middle class households making up to $75,000 would see a significant tax hike over the next ten years.

Asya Pikovsky, a spokeswoman for the Center for Public Democracy, emphasized the importance of the protests.

"These are people who are disabled. They depend on healthcare and are incredibly worried about what will happen after the tax bill will pass," she said, adding that by showing up and risking arrest, the demonstrators are sending a message to elected officials.

Five people in Lewiston, Maine were taken into custody Monday afternoon after a protest in Sen. Susan Collins' local office. The organizers who staged the sit-in are said they would continue to protest until Collins changed her "yes" vote on the GOP tax plan to a "no."

Angel Padilla is a policy director for Indivisible, which has organized 351 local district events against the tax bill over the last month. While the progressive group hopes to inspire members to engage in with their elected officials — either staging rallies or scheduling one-on-one meetings — he said "we do not encourage people to get arrested."

Now as the bill moves onto the Senate, Pikovsky expects another hundred protesters will flood legislative offices again. They are specifically targeting Arizona senators John McCain, Jeff Flake and Collins, all of whom have been on the fence on the tax bill.

"We expect many more arrests," Pikovsky said, explaining, "these will likely "be harder arrests meaning that they won't just be carted off. They'll probably spend the night in jail."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.

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