FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Protesters began gathering at state Capitols and in neighborhoods and town squares across the country Wednesday to kick off a series of tax-day protests designed to echo the rebellion of the Boston Tea Party. Demonstrators said they're steamed about government spending since President Barack Obama took office.
The rallies were being held everywhere from Kentucky, which just passed tax increases on cigarettes and alcohol, to South Carolina, where the governor has repeatedly criticized the $787 billion economic stimulus package Congress passed earlier this year. Large protests also were expected in California and New York.
In Atlanta, thousands of people were expected to gather on the steps of the Georgia Capitol, where Fox News Channel conservative pundit Sean Hannity was set to broadcast his show Wednesday night. He's been promoting the show on Fox.
The tea parties have also been promoted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington and led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas.
In Hartford, Conn., police estimated 3,000 people showed up at the state Capitol, where nearly two decades earlier an estimated 40,000 had converged in protest after the state enacted its personal income tax.
This time, many carried makeshift pitchforks and signs with messages aimed at the Democrats who control Congress and the White House.
"There needs to be some common sense restored to government at every level, Washington, in our state and in our towns," said Faith Burns of East Granby, who rang a school bell and wore a sandwich board with a picture of a pig in a circle crossed out. "And besides it's so much gosh-darned fun to ring this bell."
In Des Moines, Iowa, more than 1,000 people gathered on the steps of the state Capitol wearing red shirts proclaiming "revolution is brewing."
"The system is severely broken and we the people let it get that way," said Des Moines businessman Doug Burnett. "What can we do? My answer is revolution."
Organizers say the movement has developed organically through online social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and through exposure on Fox News.
And while they insist it's a nonpartisan effort, it has been seized on by many prominent Republicans who view it as a promising way for the party to reclaim its momentum.
"It is a nonpartisan mass organizing effort comprised of people unhappy with size of government. All you have to be is a mildly awake Republican candidate for office to get in front of that parade," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
The movement has attracted prominent Republicans, some considering a 2012 presidential bid.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich planned to address a tea party in a New York City park Wednesday night. His advocacy group, americansolutions.com, has partnered with tea party organizers to get word to the group's members.
"It's the Reagan coalition reorganizing itself," Gingrich spokesman Rick Sawyer said.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, another likely 2012 GOP presidential hopeful, planned to attend tea parties in Columbia and Charleston. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sent an e-mail to his supporters, letting them know about tea parties taking place throughout the state.
At a rally in Madison, Wis., Jean Snyder of Milwaukee held a sign showing the U.S. Capitol as a pirate ship, with taxpayers walking the plank into a sea of debt.
In Oklahoma City, the state Capitol will be the site of one of several National Tax Day Tea Party rallies across the country, driven partly by conservative political activists.
Alan Webb of Edmond, organizer of the Capitol rally, said the main emphasis will be on excessive government spending.
Jason Carini of "Getrightoklahoma.com" said three tea parties are being planned in Tulsa, including one at LaFortune Park featuring Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla.
Unlike a Feb. 27 tea party rally at the Capitol, Webb said Wednesday's event will not include any politicians as speakers.
Sites of other rallies include Duncan, Durant, Lawton, Miami, Muskogee, Norman, Poteau and Tahlequah.
Candidates for the Republican Party chairmanship took President Obama to task for his stimulus package at the earlier Capitol rally.
But Webb said Wednesday's tea party "is not an anti-Obama rally because this (excessive government spending) has been happening long before Obama came in."
"I don't know why we should be placing blame on one man — the whole Congress added to that snowball," he said.
He said it is the fear of protesters that increasing the federal deficit to pay for bailouts and other big spending programs will lead to increased taxes.
Carini is a field director for the Virginia-based American Majority, which describes itself on its Web site as a nonpartisan training institute for leaders committed to limited government.
Republicans are expected to outnumber Democrats at the Oklahoma City and Tulsa tea parties, but Carini and Webb said the rallies are intended to be nonpartisan.
"Obviously people with a limited government mind-set are involved," Carini said.
The rallies have been heavily promoted by conservative radio talk show hosts and national political figures like former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey.
Gingrich is to speak at a tea party in New York and Army at a similar event in Atlanta.
In Michigan, it was more of the same. "Joe the Plumber" is the featured guest at a protest of government spending outside the Michigan Capitol.
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher made news during the presidential campaign when he asked Barack Obama about taxes.
He is to speak Wednesday afternoon at an anti-tax rally on the Capitol steps. The "tea party" is one of many being held around the country on the last day to file federal income tax returns.
Organizers say the federal government is borrowing too much money. They're also upset about a 2007 state income tax increase and new higher federal tobacco taxes.
The event is being organized by the Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a group of activists who favor lower taxes and making Michigan a right-to-work state.
In Washington, a robot was inspecting a suspicious package on the North Lawn of the White House after tax protesters threw what appears to be a box of tea bags over the White House fence.
That prompted officials to clear Pennsylvania Avenue Wednesday.
The U.S. Secret Service on Wednesday locked down the White House compound after someone hurled a package in an apparent act of defiance meant to echo the rebellion of the Boston Tea Party and related tax protests around the country. Officers cleared the street and Lafayette Park across from the White House mid-afternoon. They also ordered journalists back inside the press room.
Demonstrators said they disapproved of government spending since President Barack Obama took office.
—For more on tax day and your taxes, be sure to visit MainStreet.com's tax page for more.
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