NEW YORK-Mike O'Brien, a life-long Brooklyn resident, has a hat that says "Red State." Going to a Tax Day Tea Party in New York City-the bluest of the blue cities in a blue state-is like being transported to a Red State: men wear camo, tea bags hang from American flags, and country bluegrass singer Rebecca Henricks belts "Red, White and Bluegrass." Not the usual Manhattan fare.
The crowd joined other "Tax Day Tea Party" protests across the country, stretching for two blocks behind NYPD barricades in City Hall Park in downtown Manhattan. They waved signs like, "I will keep my freedom. You can keep the change" and "I'm not your ATM!" They burst into spontaneous "America the Beautiful" singing, and chanted, "We are America."
It was a rally for fiscal conservatives, not social conservatives. There was one reference to Planned Parenthood from Jordan Sekulow of Jay Sekulow Live!, but the themes were smaller government and lower taxes, and the rallying cries were "freedom" and "responsibility."
Author S.E. Cupp told the audience the mainstream media thought they were stupid, embarrassing and bad for the country. But he said to the mainstream media: "I think you're stupid. I think you're embarrassing. I think you're bad for the country."
As the crowd chanted "We the People," author Brett Joshpe said, "People want more freedom, not less." Former presidential speechwriter Michael Johns derided policies "corrosive to the American dream" as protesters yelled of New York Sen. Charles Schumer, "Chucky sucks!" and chanted "Obama's not America." Then emcee David Webb introduced the official New York City tea party song-Whiskey Falls' "We Are America."
Later, organizer Kellen Giuda introduced Newt Gingrich, who gave a brief speech encouraging people to tell their legislators to vote against the upcoming budget, with an ultimatum: "If you vote against America's future, we're gonna fire you." Quoting the Declaration of Independence, he told the crowd, "God has given each of you sovereignty."
In New York City these protesters are outnumbered, but they said they know others who feel the same way. Lucy Walker, a New Yorker carrying a sign that said "D.C. pirates are hijacking America's wealth," called Obama "the pirate president" and the Democratic party "the Democratic Marxist party." She pulled the lever for McCain but really voted for Palin, she said, adding, "Shame on the media."
And while some identified themselves as Republicans, Mike O'Brien said he's no longer a Republican because they also spend too much. He said of Bush, "He didn't help." While he knows fellow Brooklynites who feel the same way, he doesn't feel like he has representation that reflects his views. First-time protester Ron Deri said in 2010, the rallying cry will again be "change": "Change the people who are in office."
Doreen Alicea, from Staten Island, said she knows people who think like she does-lower taxes, small government and more individual freedom. "I'm afraid we're not going to recognize our country in a few years," she said. Protester Peter Hirsh said he came "because I believe in working hard, keeping my own money, paying as little taxes as possible, liberty and freedom. I don't want the government running my life, which this government seems to want to do."