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'Tea party' protesters gather in Washington to rally against taxes, spending

In annual tradition, protesters descend on Washington to demand lower taxes and smaller government on April 15. In Freedom Plaza, the conservative "tea party" activists convened to protest the direction of the Obama administration and rail against what they regard as excessive government spending.

Demonstrators began gathering early Thursday for speeches at Freedom Plaza. Among them was Jerry Johnson, 58, a lawyer from Berryville, Va., who held a homemade sign depicting the United States as the Titanic striking an iceberg.

"I came here because of what I see going on in this country," he said. "We're bankrupt in America. We can't run our households like the government's running the country. That, and the idea of people [sitting] around on their butts. Fifty percent of the people collecting a check are paying no taxes, while the other 50 pull the wagon."

Johnson continued: "Normally I'm not a protester. I've got other things to do in life. I'd rather be doing all kinds of other things. But I just can't stand by and watch this country go down the tubes."

He said he "worked my way up from nothing" and was not about to allow "somebody else to reach in my pocket and just take it away and give to somebody" who does nothing.

Johnson expressed opposition to Obama. "It's not just because he's black," he said. "I wish I could tell you that I loved this guy, that he was a great president, that I had faith in him. But I have none. Zero."

Carolyn Connolly, a nurse from Person County, N.C., said she felt called to attend an anti-taxation "9/12 protest" last September. It was the first time she had been politically active, and she hasn't looked back.

"I have something driving me in the pit," Connolly said. "I'm afraid of where the country's going, afraid of what I see."

Staff writer Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

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