BOSTON – Gil Harper of Cushing, Maine, listened intently to Sarah Palin on Wednesday as she spoke to a crowd of thousands about lower taxes, smaller government and the coming elections.

Cloaked in a yellow flag emblazoned with a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me,” Harper held a cardboard sign that read, “Government Too Fat.”

Harper and other Maine tea party members were among the thousands who rallied on the Boston Common, the last stop for the nationwide Tea Party Express.

Two busloads of Mainers went to Boston for the rally and for a chance to hear Palin.

Harper said he has seen Palin speak several times, and has always been impressed. The Republicans’ 2008 vice presidential candidate speaks directly to the people in the crowd, said Harper, and her message resonates.

The things she spoke about were what drew Harper to Boston.

“I’m here to help save the principles of liberty, personal freedom,” said Harper. “I got to get away from the television and radio, get out here and participate.”

Palin spoke for about 22 minutes, with a backdrop of the Prudential Building and the rest of the Boston skyline.

The movement she has become synonymous with has gained popularity in the past year, with local, state and national rallies making news.

Organizers say there are two primary groups in Maine, the Maine Patriots and the Maine Reformers, with about 1,500 to 1,600 members among them.

“We’re fed up with the government, both in Augusta and Washington,” said Amy Hale of Hartland, head of the Maine Patriots group. “We’re tired of the spending, of the backroom deals.”

For the numerous speakers, comedians and singers, a dominant theme of Wednesday’s rally was a call to clean house in Washington, D.C., to “restore balance and common sense,” as Palin said.

“The first test will be the ballot box in November,” she said.

Joined on the stage briefly by former “first dude” her husband, Todd Palin, the former Alaska governor said the tea party is “the people’s movement.”

Palin spoke toward the middle of the program. Opening the rally was a series of speakers and singers, who focused mostly on honoring war veterans.

American flags big and small were waved, some with a circle of stars in the corner and the Roman numeral II – for the second American Revolution. Plenty of signs were hefted, with slogans like “We the People,” and “The Constitution – follow it or get out.”

A few hundred protesters showed up as well, carrying signs that read, “I have faith in Obama,” and “Palin/Voldemort,” referring to a Harry Potter villain.

The rally was largely without clashes between the two sides. Organizers said someone tossed an egg at the stage, and there were reports of confrontations that were more noise than action.

Members of the media were everywhere, covering the event, and Boston TV stations had helicopters in the air for much of the rally.

Some of the tea partiers dressed in colonial garb. One of them was Jeff Cucci of Albion, who assumes the identity of Jacob Broom, a signer of the Constitution.

Many people asked to have their photos taken with Cucci, and he was invited up on the stage for the grand finale, a rendition of “God Bless the USA,” by Lee Greenwood.

Mainers who went to Boston said the tie between them is a protest against big government, and a push for a return to rule by the Constitution, lower taxes and a general free market.

Two buses headed down, one making stops in Old Town, Augusta and Lewiston, the other in Portland and Portsmouth, N.H. There were about 75 people on the two buses.

As one bus passed over the Piscataqua River into New Hampshire, Cucci spoke to the passengers, reminding them of the words of Founding Father Samuel Adams, who argued the “leveling of wealth” was unconstitutional.

Dave Andreasen of Portland said he went to the rally to show support for the movement.

“This movement here is nationwide,” he said. “This is how we get to know each other, hold out our hands in friendship.”

Andreasen is a member of the Cumberland County tea party, Defenders of the Constitution, a chapter of the Maine Patriots group with about two dozen members, he said.

Many of the Mainers repeated the same theme after the rally: They enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with fellow tea partiers.

“It’s good to see a lot of people – you’re not alone,” said Hale, the Maine Patriots leader. “It’s good to see like-minded people.”

For George Allen of Dexter, the rally was “kind of like getting an injection. It boosts the energy level back up,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

mwickenheiser@pressherald.com