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Tens of Thousands Protest Obama Initiatives at Capitol
"You want socialism?" said Susan Clark, a District resident marching with a bullhorn. "Go to Russia!"
The huge turnout indicated the growing frustration with Obama among conservative activists and showed that his nationally televised speech Wednesday did little to move his political opponents on health care.
Although it is unclear whether the demonstrators represent a large segment of voters or even of Republicans, Saturday's march illustrated that activists, some of whom are not enthusiastic about the GOP, have been galvanized.
The White House declined to comment on the demonstration, but Democrats said the rally and other protests in recent months represent a small minority of voters and will not slow Obama's proposals.
"There is a lot of intensity on the far right to defeat the president's agenda, but I am not sure that holding up signs that say we have to bury health reform with Senator Kennedy will go over well with moderates and independent voters," said Doug Thornell, an adviser to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Saturday's demonstrators spanned the spectrum of conservative anger at Obama, including opponents of his tax, spending and health-care plans and protesters who question his U.S. citizenship and compare his administration to the Nazi regime.
Most signs were handmade: "Socialism is UnAmerican," "King George Didn't Listen Either!" "Terrorists Won't Destroy America, Congress Will!" and "The American Dream R.I.P." Many protesters carried the now-familiar poster of Obama made up to look like the Joker, captioned "Socialism."
"Nobody's standing up for us, so we have to stand up for ourselves," said Phil Chancey, 66, who drove to Washington from Clinton, Tenn.
"We're all endangered!" shouted Dave Rue, 67, a retired Mobil Oil employee who traveled to Washington from New Jersey. "We're endangered because they're pushing socialism on us."
Some came to protest what they see as government interference with gun ownership. Shaun Bryant, 40, a leadership trainer, was among eight people who flew in from Salt Lake City. They fashioned a sign with a drawing of an AR-15 assault rifle and the words, "We came unarmed from Montana and Utah . . . this time!"
Debbie Wilson, 51, of Apollo Beach, Fla., flew to Washington a week ago, driving to Colonial Williamsburg with her husband for sightseeing before the rally.
"We want our country to go back to the roots of doing what our Founding Fathers wanted us to do -- less government in every aspect of my life," she said. "We walked the streets of Williamsburg, and it felt like we were learning how to be a patriot."