Tax Protesters Gather Around Nation for 'Tea Parties'
Protesters 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.
A few hundred protesters, some dressed in Revolutionary War garb and carrying signs that say "End the Fed" and "D.C.: District of Communism," gathered on the Boston Common to protest government spending and taxes.
The demonstrations 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 federal stimulus package. Large protests also were expected in California, New York and Atlanta.
Organizers said they're steamed about government spending since President Barack Obama took office, most notably the $787 billion economic stimulus package Congress passed into law earlier this year.
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.
Faith Burns of East Granby rang an antique school bell and wore a sandwich board that read "Stop the Madness" with a picture of a pig in a circle crossed out.
"There needs to be some common sense restored to government at every level, Washington, in our state and in our towns," she said. "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 Dough 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 the conservative Fox News channel. 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 of whom are considering a 2012 presidential bid.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich planned to address the tea party taking place in a New York City park Wednesday night. His advocacy group, americansolutions.com, has partnered with the tea party organizers to get word out to the group's members.
"It's the Reagan coalition reorganizing itself," Gingrich spokesman Rick Sawyer said. "If we work together, we get what we want. As long as we remain divided, as we were in the last presidential election, opponents of our policy initiatives win."
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.