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Associated Press/Photo by Ron Edmonds

Tea time

Politics | Thousands across the country throw tea parties in protest of taxes and government debt

WASHINGTON-Two minutes past high noon on Tax Day, President Barack Obama, during a ceremony near the White House, made what is perhaps the understatement of his presidency so far:

"I know that April 15th isn't exactly everyone's favorite date on the calendar."

That line probably would have been one of the few things Obama could have said that would have elicited cheers from the more than 1,000 protestors who had gathered at that same time at Lafayette Park just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

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The protestors-some dressed in colonial outfits, many wearing patriotic colors and almost all carrying some sort of sign-braved incessant rain and unseasonably cold temperatures to participate in one of dozens of tax day protests being held around the nation.

Dubbed "tax day tea parties" by organizers, the events were designed to decry the rise in federal spending while paying homage to the original Boston Tea Party of 1773.

Protestors gathered from coast to coast-many at state capitals-in events that gathered momentum in the last few days through Facebook and Twitter.

At Lafayette Park, rain, malfunctioning speakers and a crowding of umbrellas made it difficult for many attendees to hear the main speakers. Many of those in attendance at the D.C. rally said the day's steady downpour would not stop them from coming to protest the ballooning size of the federal government.

"This is not civil disobedience. This is constitutional obedience," said Mike Church, a conservative talk show host on Sirius radio and one of Wednesday's speakers at the D.C. event.

Kit Parks, 48, of North Carolina said her worries about the country becoming bankrupt motivated her to take a detour on her way to New York to attend her first ever protest.

"Making a trillion the new billion is what has gotten me scared," she said while holding a sign that read: "TARP: Taxpayers Are Really Peeved." "Once we pass that threshold there is no turning back."

Protestor after protestor at the Lafayette Park event said they are angry at both Republicans and Democrats for letting federal spending spin out of control.

"The Constitution starts with three powerful words 'We the People,'" said Eric Cary, 43, of Gaithersburg, Md. "So we are the government, and we have to get back to telling our representatives what we want."

With tea bags dangling from his sign, Tony Snesko, 62, of Washington, D.C., said the more he gets taxed the less people he can hire for his small business, which currently has 10 employees.

"But without the amount of taxes I paid this year I could have hired two more people," he said.

Joe Sackett, a 57-year-old high school economics teacher from California listed the $787 billion stimulus package and the $3.5 trillion budget plan as telltale signs that the country is fiscally headed in the wrong direction:

"You can't borrow your way out of debt," he said. "We are putting our children and grandchildren into debt they won't be able to get out of."

A surprising number of children were drafted into participating in the day's protests. Several trudged through the mud in their raincoats while holding aloft signs that read: "Don't tread on my future" or "Save some money for me. I'm 10 years old."

Other signs spotted at the DC event included: "Taxed Enough Already," "Don't spread my wealth, spread my work ethic," "Give me liberty- not debt," and "Fed up and Tea'd off."

Tax protestors also defiantly threw a box of tea bags toward the White House, prompting intervention by the Secret Service.

Obama at a ceremony held not far from the Washington protestors vowed to change the tax system:

"We will make it quicker, easier, and less expensive for you to file a return, so that April 15 is not a date that is approached with dread each year."

Other demonstrations were held around the country including in Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and California. In Lansing, Mich., about 4,000 people waved signs while in Connecticut, police estimated 3,000 people showed up at the state Capitol in Hartford, according to the Associated Press.

Later today, Fox News Channel conservative pundit Sean Hannity was set to broadcast his show from protests in Atlanta and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich planned to address a tea party in a New York City.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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