National News

Protesters criticize government spending at tax day tea parties

Posted April 15, 2009 11:01 a.m. EDT
Updated April 15, 2011 6:58 a.m. EDT

— Thousands of protesters across North Carolina and nationwide are using tax day to show their distaste for government spending and federal bailouts since President Barack Obama took office.

From Charlotte to Edenton, more than two dozen towns and cities saw protesters holding "tea parties" on Wednesday. They were joined by tens of thousands of people holding similar rallies across the country.

Cary resident Mark Isaacs attended a protest in Raleigh holding a sign that showed a taxpayer pulling a cart advertising a free ride. The 50-year-old chemical supplier echoed other protesters' concerns when he said the government must stop spending money it doesn't have. He said his daughters will shoulder the debt.

The City of Raleigh tea party was held outside the state capitol.Organizers got a permit for 300 people but based on initial estimates from state Capitol Police, the number of anti-tax demonstrators hovered near 1,500.

People were waving signs like “Stop taxing my kids and grandkids now,” and “Stop the insanity of bailouts.”

“Stop stealing our money with these unnecessary programs, bloating government,” protester Denise Joyner said.

“I don’t think we’re headed for socialism and I don’t think we have a corrupt tax policy,” said John Deans, who opposed the demonstration.

In Atlanta, thousands of people were 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.

In Boston, a few hundred protesters gathered on the Boston Common – a short distance from the original Tea Party – some dressed in Revolutionary garb and carrying signs that said "Barney Frank, Bernie Madoff: And the Difference Is?" and "D.C.: District of Communism."

The tea parties were promoted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington and led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, a lobbyist whose corporate clients including Verizon, Raytheon, liquor maker Diageo, CarMax and drug company Sanofi Pasteur.

The group's federal tax returns show its educational and charitable arms received more than $6 million in donations in 2007, the most recent year for which returns are available.

Organizers said the movement developed organically through online social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and through exposure on Fox News.

And while they insisted it was 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 the 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 also attracted some Republicans 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.

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.

There were several small counter-protests, including one in at Fountain Square in Cincinnati, where about a dozen people protested the protesters, one carrying a sign that read, "Where were you when Bush was spending billions a month 'liberating' Iraq?" The anti-tax demonstration, meanwhile, drew about 4,000 people.

In Lansing, Mich., outside the state Capitol, another 4,000 people waved signs exclaiming "Stop the Fiscal Madness," "Read My Lipstick! No More Bailouts" and "The Pirates Are in D.C." Children held makeshift signs complaining about the rising debt.

"I'm really opposed to spending the way out of our problem," said Deborah Mourray, 56, a business administrator from the Detroit suburb of Troy. "How I run my home is I don't spend more money so my situation improves. Save and conserve."

In Connecticut, police estimated 3,000 people showed up at the state Capitol in Hartford and another 1,000 at a rally in New Haven. Many carried makeshift pitchforks and signs with messages aimed at the Democrats who control Congress and the White House.

In Montgomery, Ala., Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" blared from loud speakers as more than 1,000 people gathered at the Alabama Statehouse.

Greg Budell, a radio talk show host, said the tea parties could have the same impact as when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a Montgomery bus during segregation in 1955.

"If one woman could change the world by refusing to move to the back of the bus, we ought to be able to change it by saying we are not going to let our government throw us under the bus and our children and our grandchildren," he said.

In Frankfort, about 250 people gathered at the Capitol, where just a few months earlier Kentucky bourbon producers emptied whiskey bottles on the steps to protest alcohol taxes.

David Ransdell, a 66-year-old retired Baptist missionary from Lawrenceburg, donned an empty tea box as a hat and dangled tea bags around the sides.

"The future does not look real good for our country," Ransdell said. "People are afraid that they're going to be out on the street."