BALTIMORE – With chants of “money for jobs not for war,” tax day pickets greeted people arriving at the main downtown post office to mail off their tax returns April 15.

A coalition of peace organizations organized the picketline, one of many across the nation to protest George W. Bush’s request for $397 billion for the Pentagon, an increase of $48 billion.

There were also signs that proclaimed “Tax the rich,” protesting Bush’s trillion-dollar tax giveaway to Big Business and the wealthy, squandering money needed to pay for programs like a prescription drug plan under Medicare.

“This is the day people pay their taxes,” said Al Moss, who was distributing a War Resisters League leaflet with a pie chart showing that 46 percent of the budget goes for wars past and present.

“Those Apache helicopters that are killing Palestinians are paid for by U.S. taxpayers,” Moss added. “I wrote a letter to Bush asking him to cut off arms transfers to Israel.”

Among the crowd of several hundred picketers were many Arab Americans including Suha Khadeir, majoring in early childhood education at Baltimore Community College. Of Palestinian background, she was there with her husband and child. “The Palestinian people have shown they are going to keep fighting until the occupation ends,” she said. “Why is the United States spending $3 billion to subsidize the Israeli occupation of Palestine when there are homeless people in the streets of Baltimore?”

Danny Gann, a student at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said, “There’s obviously a crisis of priorities in this country when we’re paying billions and billions to create a military infrastructure of human misery. You don’t even need to go as far as Africa to find people who are dying of AIDS. Here in Baltimore there are thousands who are suffering and dying. To see a president proposing nearly $400 billion on armaments, it’s senseless.”

Many were preparing to ride buses to Washington for the April 20 rally against “War At Home and Abroad.”

Elizabeth White, a student majoring in Social Work at the University of Maryland, said, “It’s shocking to see from one street to the next the gap between upper middle class and poverty. It says to me there has to be a redistribution of money in our society. The extreme nature of these budget priorities is immoral. We could defend ourselves with far fewer weapons.”