April 16, 2010

Tea partiers mark tax day under protest

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Tea party protesters marked tax day Thursday with exhortations against "gangster government" and appeals from Republicans seeking their grass-roots clout in November elections, a prospect both tempting and troubling to those in the loose movement.

Tea Party
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Tea party supporters cheer during a rally Thursday at Capitol Park in Augusta, Maine. The protest featured one person dressed in colonial-era clothing and signs expressing disatisfaction with government, including a warning that “Revolution is brewing.”

The Associated Press

Venting anger, frustration in Augusta

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine - Gathering amid colorful, rippling flags and an abundant scattering of protest signs in a park facing Maine's Capitol, a few hundred tea party activists were urged Thursday to vote out the current Washington insiders who they said are too friendly to high taxes and big government.

Speakers also railed against the newly enacted health care law and said their Constitutional rights are being trampled by those in power. A rally was also held in Portland and a caravan of activists stopped in four Aroostook County communities from Houlton to Madawaska.

In Augusta, Garrett Lear dressed as a Colonial pastor as he told the cheering crowd that America's elected officials are acting like nobility. "Someone has stolen my country and I want her back," he thundered.

The rally was marked by colorful "Don't Tread on Me" and Colonial flags and many of those attending carried signs expressing dissatisfaction with the government.

Activists held signs calling for President Barack Obama's impeachment and repeal of the health care law he championed. "We the people have had enough. Revolution is brewing," said one of the signs.

Craig Rubner of Dresden said he drove 20 miles and took time from work to attend the rally.

"I don't feel that my state representatives or my congressional representatives down in D.C., they don't answer my question. It's the same in the state. So I came here to see what this is about," Rubner said during the gathering.

Andrew Ian Dodge, spokesman for the Maine Tea Party Patriots, said the strength of the tea party movement that organized the demonstrations is at the grassroots level.

"We do not need leaders, but merely people to ... advise those on the ground to maximize their efforts to overturn the socialist majority in both the House and the Senate," he said.

A Maine consumer group's leader dismissed tea party activists' rhetoric as "just a colorful distraction" from real issues that confront Mainers such as unaffordable health insurance, toxic pollution and abuses by financial institutions.

Several thousand rallied in Washington's Freedom Plaza in the shadow of the Ronald Reagan office building, capping a national protest tour launched in the dust of Nevada and finishing in the capital that inspires tea party discontent like no other place. Allied activists demonstrated from Maine to Hawaii in hundreds of lively protests, all joined in disdain for government spending and -- on the April 15 federal tax filing deadline -- what they see as the Washington tax grab.

The Washington rally in brilliant sunshine was spirited but modest in size, lacking the star power of tea party favorite Sarah Palin, who roused the masses at earlier stops of the Tea Party Express in its cross-country bus tour. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won roars of affirmation as she accused President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats of trying to take over health care, energy, financial services and other broad swaths of the economy.

"We're on to this gangster government," she declared. "I say it's time for these little piggies to go home."

She appealed directly for tea partiers to swing behind "constitutional conservatives" in congressional campaigns, just as they contributed to Scott Brown's upset in the Massachusetts Senate race in an early test of their potency. "I am the No. 1 target for one more extremist group to defeat this November," she said. "We need to have your help for candidates like me. We need you to take out some of these bad guys."

Although Republicans are ideological allies of many tea partiers -- and GOP operatives are involved in some of the organizations -- they are also part of the establishment that many in the movement want to upend. No members of the Republican congressional leadership were featured at the capital rally.

In Wisconsin, a half dozen tea party groups from around the state decided to boycott Thursday's rally in Madison because former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson was among the speakers.

"We do feel it's important that people know this is not who we would ever align ourselves with," said Kirsten Lombard, organizer of the Madison-based tea party group Wisconsin 9/12 Project. Tim Dake, organizer of the Milwaukee-based GrandSons of Liberty, said: "Tommy is representative of the old boy network way of doing things."

A similar sentiment was seen on a sign carried by a tea party member in Washington: "Reelect No One."

But plenty of Republican hopefuls came forward at rallies around the country, hoping to tap the energy and anger for political ends. In Louisville, Ky., Rand Paul, an outsider who has become a leading contender for the Republican Senate nomination, declared, "I'm clinging to my guns, my religion and my ammunition" and added: "We were intended to be a constitutional Republic. Yet, we have devolved into some kind of mad democracy."


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