NEW YORK—Americans gathered at city halls, state capitols, and other civic locations on Tax Day to protest government spending, including a $787 billion stimulus bill passed earlier this year. The grassroots protests, billed as tea parties in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party, were scheduled in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.
Reports Wednesday evening indicated that around 700 tea parties took place, including one in Boston, where hundreds cheered as people dressed in colonial-style clothes symbolically tossed crates of tea into Boston Harbor.
At New York City Hall, more than a thousand gathered to voice their frustration with the federal government’s spending.
“We’re here to protest fiscal irresponsibility. The legislators in D.C. and Albany, they’re not representing us correctly,” said Kellen Guida, who organized the New York City protest through his Web site, Parcbench.com. “They’re saying it’s these right-wing billionaires who are organizing these activities and providing all the money. Well, I can tell you single-handedly, that they’re not.”
The tea parties got their inspiration in February when CNBC host Rick Santelli gave an on-air rant criticizing the Obama Administration’s mortgage rescue plan and comparing the United States to early communist Cuba.
“This is America! How many people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgages that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand!” said Santelli, who has worked as an investment strategist and trader.
“You know Cuba used to have mansions and a relatively decent economy. They moved from the individual to the collective. Now they’re driving ‘54 Chevys … It’s time for another tea party,” said Santelli.
Lighting up online blogs and networking sites, the rant inspired tea party protests on Feb. 27 that included 30,000 Americans, according to figures put out by a tea party Web site. The protests have been organized through grassroots efforts of online groups like Smart Girl Politics, Top Conservatives on Twitter, and DontGo Movement.
President Barack Obama has not made any direct comments about the tea party protests. His press secretary Robert Gibbs has criticized Santelli for being uncompassionate and misunderstanding the administration’s mortgage rescue plan.
“I'm not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives, or in what house he lives, but the American people are struggling every day,” said Gibbs.
“Here's what this plan will do: For the very first time, this plan helps those who have acted responsibly, played by the rules, and made their mortgage payments. This will help people who aren't in trouble yet keep from getting in trouble … That's important for Mr. Santelli and millions of Americans to understand.”
What People Are Saying
The New York City protest engendered a non-establishment feeling sometimes missing from conservative politics. Speakers at the protest included people from the crowd who just wanted to get up and speak their minds and main speakers included young, upcoming local conservatives.
“We’ve had enough of fiscal irresponsibility, wasteful spending, and over taxation,” said Alex Zablocki, a 26-year-old running for New York City Public Advocate. “We don’t have to accept what we’ve been given, we can turn the tide and change our great city, state, and nation.”
“I’m here for the younger generations in my family,” said Teresa, 80, at the New York City protest.
“I’m here because I remember what things were like before we had this run-away-out-of-control government, this run-away-out-of-control spending,” said Teresa, who lives in Manhattan's Upper West Side.
“We’ve had it with the federal government, the size is out of control, I voted for Bush, but he blew it … My son is going to pay for what’s going on now,” said Bob, a contractor from Dutchess County.
“Our elected representatives aren’t in touch with us anymore,” said Bob's 17-year-old son, Alex.