Flat taxers. Fair taxers. Funky taxers. You name it, they were crowded outside the IRS building this morning in honor of Tax Day, and crammed on to the National Mall for an evening round of rallying. Protesting the day of paying up to Uncle Sam is becoming an annual event, as more and more tea partiers join the fight for smaller government and reduced government spending.
The morning events included an activist session held in the Ronald Reagan Building (the same building that houses the IRS) by Freedomworks, one of the main groups responsible for organizing the festivities. Inside the session, a lineup of conservative movement leaders spoke about the need for lower taxes and increased political action, while thousands of protesters built up outside in Freedom Plaza. It turned into a 3,000-man rally that lasted into the afternoon.
The evening's protest, held near the Washington Monument, was maybe three to five times that size. It featured speakers such as Dick Armey, Lord Monckton, and Andrew Breitbart, and performances by artists such as Grammy award-winning Ray Stevens, who sung a rousing rendition of "Ten Percent Is Good Enough For Jesus (It Oughta Be Enough For Uncle Sam)."
Jerry, a retiree from Leesburg, Virginia, came out to the evening events with a small group of friends.
"Basically, I haven't come to one of these before. It's tax day, so its a great day to come out," he said. Jerry wasn't sure whether the protests were actually making a difference, but at least he was having fun, he said.
Shane Aranson, 23, came by because he lived in the area and supported many of the protesters' causes.
"Taxes go up and down, but the trend is up," said Aranson. He feels strongly about abolishing the Fed. "I don't like the way the entire monetary system is handled."
Both the morning and evening protests enjoyed beautiful weather, and activists had some of the best signs I've ever seen out of the tea partiers. One sign was a full-scale replica of a toilet, featuring Nancy Pelosi's head in the pot. Another told Barack Obama to put a sock in it, with a cut-out in Obama's mouth for what the tea partier holding the sign insisted should be a "dirty" sock. Full-scale tar-and-feather costumes adorned another protester, with many others sporting shirts that had messages like these:
Recession is when your neighbor looses his job. Depression is when you loose your job. Recovery is when Congress loses their job.
Matt Kibbe, director of Freedomworks, said that the overall dissatisfaction with government was growing stronger by the day.
"If you look throughout history, the closest thing you'll find to the tea party of today is the revolution of 1776," he said.
Several protesters and event speakers focused on the fact that the proceedings were not violent, and completely civil. Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall took it one step further.
"The fact that they're calling you names means that you've already won the argument," he said.
Perhaps two dozen counter-protesters made a big splash during both the morning and evening rallies by holding a 12-foot long sign that said “’Thanks for the tax cuts’ – The other 95%” implying that only the richest 5% were actually paying high tax rates. But most of the tea partiers there that I spoke to didn’t seem like they were better-off than any other subset of Americans.
After trying to infiltrate the morning rally, the counter-protesters were ordered out of Freedom Plaza by police, who insisted they hold their signs across the street. That didn't happen until the same counter-protesters asked that the police intervene when several tea partiers booed at them.
Townhall contributor Rep. Michelle Bachmann, as well as Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, were part of the morning events.
The evening events went from 5:45 until 9pm at the Lincoln Monument, and featured Rep. Ron Paul (TX), Congressman Tom Price (GA), and Tucker Carlson, among others.