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Tax day tea party

Politics | Thousands of Tea Party protesters stage a rally in Washington's Freedom Plaza

WASHINGTON-If filling out tax returns made you frustrated this week, then Tea Party groups had an invitation for you: Let it out.

And thousands of protestors did release their tax day headaches in a rally here Thursday at the appropriately named Freedom Plaza.

The tail end of the Tea Party Express Tour, which began in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Nevada hometown last month, made its last stop in the nation's capital, just across from a building named after conservative icon Ronald Regan. And this wasn't the only tax day protest, as Tea Party groups held dozens of similar rallies across the country.

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Signs here declared, "Dissent is patriotic," and warned lawmakers to "Stop reckless spending."

"I say it's time for these little piggies to go home," shouted Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to the crowd, referring to the current Democratic majority in Congress. Bachmann reminded the protestors, "It's all about November. Let's take back our country."

The Tea Party's influence will indeed be one of the key stories in this year's mid-term elections. "Your fired," one sign at the rally ominously read. "When did public service become royalty?" said another.

Some incumbent Republican officeholders are wary of the group while Tea Party members themselves seem to prefer conservatives who are outsiders and not part of the Washington establishment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, tired to assert this conservative tension during her weekly press conference on Thursday, telling reporters that the Tea Party movement may force some Republicans into competitive primaries.

"The First Amendment is alive and well right outside my window," Pelosi said.

But the group known as the Tea Party Express held its own news conference before the rallies, during which it released a liberal-heavy list of top targets for 2010. Those included vulnerable moderate Democrats like Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

Even with the elections lingering on the horizon, Thursday's D.C. rally seemed to be more about venting-about the direction of the country, the size of federal government, and the new $1 trillion healthcare law.

Crowd chants included, "Stop raising taxes on people who need jobs!" and "The American people are not stupid!"

Former Saturday Night Live comedian Victoria Jackson took to the stage and plucked a ukulele while performing a song with the lyrics, "There's a communist in the White House."

Parents held pictures of their sons and daughters, begging that the nation's debt would not end up destroying their children's future.

Belmar, N.J., resident Brian Thiede, 22, holding a large yellow flag with the trademark "Don't Tread on Me" emblem, said he joined the movement "the very second I lost my job because of too many small business taxes."

Not surprisingly, taxes did receive the day's most ire. Former Republican House leader Dick Armey, now the head of Freedom Works, yelled to the crowd, "This tax code that you're living under is abomination of the human spirit!"
Alaina Pangelina contributed to this report.

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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