Sacramento, Calif. (AP) - Originally billed as a chance to reflect on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a series of raucous tea party rallies around the country on Sunday ended up focusing almost entirely on an event still to come -- the Nov. 2 election.
"We are your everyday, average, churchgoing families, we represent the majority of people in this nation, and we're ready to take back our government," said Pam Pinkston of
Thousands of tea party activists also turned up at rallies in
Several thousand people marched along
"It wouldn't bother me to make a clean sweep," said Michael Power of
Leslie and Gary Morrison of
"This is a way to get people focused before the election," Leslie Morrison said. "And it's a way to get the tea party's true numbers seen."
Many attending the various rallies wore red, white and blue clothing and carried yellow flags with the picture of a snake coiled above the inscription "Don't Tread On Me."
Organizers say the events intended to call attention to what they describe as big government run amok and to recall the sense of national unity Americans felt the day after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The rallies also represent an opportunity to build momentum before the November election. The tea party is counting on its members to turn out in large numbers and prove that the movement is a political force with staying power.
"We've lost respect in the world. We are going broke. The American dream is dying and our social and cultural fabric is unraveling," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who spoke at the
Most of the rally-goers were already faithful tea party activists, and it will take a lot more than just them to make real waves at the polls, acknowledged Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler.
"We want to fire people up today, so that then they'll go out and get the new people," Meckler, of Nevada City, Calif., said backstage at the Sacramento event.
Tea Party Patriots claims to be the nation's largest tea party group, with 2,700 chapters, including at least 175 in
Beck and another tea party favorite, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, spoke to a crowd in Anchorage, Alaska, late Saturday -- the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks -- and discussed their feelings about that day in 2001.
"Here we are so many years later, and I fear we are forgetting," Beck said.
Party activists reject characterizations of their movement as an extension of the GOP, but the vast majority of its members are Republicans and independents who vote Republican.
But not Mary Jane Corcoran, a 58-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, who made the 360-mile trip to St. Louis to show her opposition to big government.
"I've sort of gotten away from being a Republican or a Democrat," she said. "I'm just a conservative."
Freking reported from