By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 16, 2009
First, a truck was to dump a million bags of tea onto tarps in Lafayette Square. But it ran into permit trouble and was turned away.
Then rally organizers showed up outside the Treasury Department. But authorities told them they lacked proper permission and could not set up a stage there.
Then it started to rain.
Next, somebody threw a box of tea over the White House fence, and the police evacuated the park.
Finally, the truck's driver, who had been wandering around town for hours after an overnight drive from Georgia, found a place to unload the cargo: 12 floors up in a downtown advocacy group. Without much of an audience.
The tea party protest of 2009 was a comedy of aggravation, but no matter. Hundreds of demonstrators ignored the missing truck, the dreary weather and the red tape and gathered in Lafayette Square yesterday for a rain-soaked but boisterous rally to protest high taxes, congressional earmarks and government bailouts.
They carried flags and signs bearing such sentiments as "Blackbeard Obama, King of the Tax Pirates" and "Obama Lied, Capitalism Died." In ponchos and under umbrellas, they cheered speakers and gave voice to a sense that the administration has the country on a path to ruin at the expense of the average taxpayer.
"I want my grandson to have as good a life as I've had and have the same opportunities," said JoAnn Abbott of Dale City, one of the rally organizers. "I don't want him stuck with a $12 trillion debt."
"The runaway spending has got to stop," she said. "The people on [Capitol Hill] are our employees. We don't work for them. It's about time our employees [started] working for us. The so-called stimulus bill? . . . The thing oinked, it had so much pork in it."
The rally was billed as part of a nationwide income-tax day protest against recent government policies and was one of hundreds of such events held in the region and across the country.
Crowds of tax protesters gathered in Miami, New York, Boston and Sacramento and in cities in Iowa, Kentucky and other states.
In Boston, several hundred protesters, some dressed in colonial costume, assembled on the Boston Common not far from the site of the original Tea Party. They carried protest signs, one of which read, "D.C.: District of Communism."
The events were designed to echo the Revolutionary War-era protest in which ships' cargoes of tea were dumped overboard by colonists chafing under British rule.
"Just like the Boston Tea Party helped to birth the nation, we're hoping that these tea parties will help save the nation," said Joshua Bolin, president of Reagan.org, one of the groups taking part in the protest.
The White House countered yesterday with President Obama saying the government has passed a sweeping reduction in taxes for 95 percent of U.S. workers. Obama said it was "the most progressive tax cut in American history" and would help create a half-million jobs.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the president has put "more money back into the pockets of hardworking Americans, cut their taxes . . . [and] made it more affordable to send their kids to college."
The rally was suspended about midafternoon when a box of what turned out to be tea was thrown over the White House fence. Police evacuated Lafayette Square as a security precaution but reopened it a short time later.
"We feel like we're losing our freedom," said Jim Eubank of St. Augustine, Fla., who attended the rally with his wife and daughter.
Bunny Monroe, a retired teacher from Fairfax County, said: "I'm really concerned with what's going on with this country. . . . I'm afraid of what's going to be happening. . . . There is no place like this country. . . . I'm afraid that [this] America is not the America that I was born into."