Tea Party Takes D.C.

Jillian Bandes

4/15/2009 6:13:32 PM - Jillian Bandes

The DC tax day tea party suffered from partisan infiltrators, an oppressive city government, and the kind of weather that usually keeps people at home.

But you wouldn't know it from the turnout - 3,000 people showed up, stomping through the mud in Lafayette Square while holding umbrellas and protest signs in the 50-degree weather. And you wouldn't know it by talking to Patrick, a stay-at-home dad from Oak Hill who attended the event with his daughter.

"We have to pay taxes on the same money 3 or 4 times," he complained, donned in a soaked poncho and baseball cap. "It makes me feel like our government no longer serves us."

In fact, the rain only seemed to harden the resolve of the protesters, reinforcing their belief that something had to be done about the tax-and-spend policies of the administration and Congress.

"If you tax me, I hire less," said Tony, of Washington DC. He said the amount he paid in taxes for his small business serving court summons prevented him from hiring two or three additional employees, and that he was there to fight back. Tony was surrounded with signs with slogans like "Fun with numbers: millions, billions, trillions…" and "For real stimulus, bring jobs and capital back home." Alan Keyes, Grover Norquist, and Laura Ingraham were among the speakers who manned the stage from 11-3pm.

By the end of it, organizer Rebecca Wales was soaked and shivering.

"It is what it is," she said of the circumstances.

Wales had been there since 6am, about the time when DC metro police told organizers that they could not erect the temporary stage in front of the Treasury - one of the two locations where protests were planned - as had been confirmed at 11pm the night before. Then a truck load of tea bags was turned away from Lafayette Square, which organizers had planned on dumping onto a huge tarp to headline the event. The truck didn't have a permit.

"Somewhere out there, a truck full of teabags rolls on, destination unknown, into an uncertain future," wrote Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post.

Linkins was more generous than many other liberal commentators. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow nicknamed tea party protestors as "teabaggers," a name that caught on like wildfire, and a host of liberal commentators and politicians derided the protests as silly and pointless.

Andrew Langer, President for the Institute for Liberty, was responsible for shutting down a group of DC protest infiltrators that reminded him of the group "Billionares for Bush." Several individuals in formal wear came to the protests, walked to the edge of the stage, and tried to obstruct the view of the crowd by holding large signs. Langer's strategy for dealing with the infiltrators was to get them out in the open.

"I got up on stage and told them that they had really legitimized our event today, and that we weren't going to shut them down, though I did ask them that they not hold their signs up in front of people so other people can see," said Langer. "I killed them with kindness."

A little after 2pm, the police made everyone in attendance move to the side of the park after a package was thrown from the crowd. A police robot examined the package before the event was allowed to resume, but it still provided the incentive for the majority of protestors to make their way home.

Not Karyn Skaggs, who had come from Columbia, MD. She said she was still there because she was "frozen, and couldn't move."

"I think it's more than Obama," she said. "I think it's a runaway Congress passing bills they don't even need. I've sent letters to Congress about it, and I always get the form letter back. You can tell they don't even read my messages," she said.

Maybe they'll get the message this time.