Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Last month's nationwide "Tea Party" demonstrations -- protesting massive government spending increases and rising taxes -- were minimalized by the national news media.

Liberal big-government groups dismissed them as the work of right-wing advocacy organizations in Washington and claimed that the events were so dispersed, most of them in small cities and towns, no one could be sure how many had actually turned out to attend them.

More than 600,000 people in nearly 600 localities -- from Bakersfield, Calif., to Atlanta, Ga. -- turned out to vent their anger over the Democrats' massive-spending levels. And a rally-by-rally account of the people who attended the events suggests that turnout could have been much higher.

The seemingly spontaneous April 15 protests have since grown into a more muscular movement of patriotic Americans concerned that the huge and escalating cost of government under President Obama and his party threatens to plunge the country into paralyzing levels of debt and taxes that will rob them of their economic freedoms.

Now the organizers are setting their sites on mass demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere this summer and fall when Congress will be battling over Obama's biggest budget-busters.

Organizers told me that rallies are planned here and around the nation on July 4 to tie their movement's goals to America's founding principles; on Sept. 12, when Congress is expected to be in the midst of debate over the administration's plans to pass a government-run healthcare system, cap-and-trade energy taxes and other big-spending programs; and on Oct. 2, when supporters expect the spending battles will be at full throttle.

"There is no central-government body behind this. It's a genuine grassroots movement, so I think you will continue to see an array of grassroots protests giving voice to their concerns (about) losing their freedom, specifically their economic freedom," said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity and one of the movement's many informal leaders.

There appears to be no unanimity among the disparate groups around the country about the various protest dates. "Some will say July 4, or Sept. 12, while others will have a rolling series of events in their localities," Phillips told me.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.