Nationwide Taxpayer Tea Parties Protest Government Spending
April 15, 2009 - 2:31 PMProtesters began gathering at state Capitols and in neighborhoods and town squares across the country Wednesday to kick off a series of tax-day protests designed to echo the rebellion of the Boston Tea Party.
Demonstrators said they're steamed about government spending since President Barack Obama took office.
The rallies were being held everywhere from Kentucky, which just passed tax increases on cigarettes and alcohol, to South Carolina, where the governor has repeatedly criticized the $787 billion economic stimulus package Congress passed earlier this year. Large protests also were expected in California and New York.
In Atlanta, thousands of people were expected to gather on the steps of the Georgia Capitol, where Fox News Channel conservative pundit Sean Hannity was set to broadcast his show Wednesday night. He's been promoting the show on Fox.
The tea parties have also been promoted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington and led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas.
In Hartford, Conn., police estimated 3,000 people showed up at the state Capitol, where nearly two decades earlier an estimated 40,000 had converged in protest after the state enacted its personal income tax.
This time, many carried makeshift pitchforks and signs with messages aimed at the Democrats who control Congress and the White House.
"There needs to be some common sense restored to government at every level, Washington, in our state and in our towns," said Faith Burns of East Granby, who rang a school bell and wore a sandwich board with a picture of a pig in a circle crossed out. "And besides it's so much gosh-darned fun to ring this bell."
In Des Moines, Iowa, more than 1,000 people gathered on the steps of the state Capitol wearing red shirts proclaiming "revolution is brewing."
"The system is severely broken and we the people let it get that way," said Des Moines businessman Doug Burnett. "What can we do? My answer is revolution."
Organizers say the movement has developed organically through online social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and through exposure on Fox News.
And while they insist it's a nonpartisan effort, it has been seized on by many prominent Republicans who view it as a promising way for the party to reclaim its momentum.
"It is a nonpartisan mass organizing effort comprised of people unhappy with size of government. All you have to be is a mildly awake Republican candidate for office to get in front of that parade," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
The movement has attracted prominent Republicans, some considering a 2012 presidential bid.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich planned to address a tea party in a New York City park Wednesday night. His advocacy group, americansolutions.com, has partnered with tea party organizers to get word to the group's members.
"It's the Reagan coalition reorganizing itself," Gingrich spokesman Rick Sawyer said.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, another likely 2012 GOP presidential hopeful, planned to attend tea parties in Columbia and Charleston. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sent an e-mail to his supporters, letting them know about tea parties taking place throughout the state.
At a rally in Madison, Wis., Jean Snyder of Milwaukee held a sign showing the U.S. Capitol as a pirate ship, with taxpayers walking the plank into a sea of debt.
In Boston, a few hundred protesters gathered on the Boston Common - a short distance from the original Tea Party - with some dressed in Revolutionary War garb and carrying signs that said "Barney Frank, Bernie Madoff: And the Difference Is?" and "D.C.: District of Communism."
Event coordinator Christen Varley, a conservative Catholic Republican, said she was thrilled with the turnout.
"Personally, I envisioned me and 100 friends on the steps of the Statehouse," she said. "I never saw this coming."
And at a midday rally in downtown Louisville, Laura Watkins pushed her 2-year-old daughter Zoe in a stroller with a sign strapped to the front reading "My Piggy Bank is not Your ATM." Watkins said she joined the protest after reading about it online and hearing about it on Fox News.
"I don't want my daughter to inherit all this debt," she said.
Associated Press Writers Mike Glover in Des Moines, Iowa, Stephanie Reitz in Hartford, Conn., Beth Fouhy in Washington, Kelsey Abbruzzese in Boston, Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., Shannon McCaffrey in Atlanta and Brett Barrouquere in Louisville contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)