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Tea party activists march on Capitol Hill

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010; 3:43 PM

"Tea party" activists gathered this morning at the Washington Monument for a march and rally to show momentum for their cause leading up to the November elections.

A steady stream of protesters walked along Pennsylvania Avenue near Ninth Street around noon, waving "Don't Tread on Me" flags and signs advocating for lower taxes and ridiculing the spending by Washington: "I may be a redneck but I know how to balance a checkbook"; "Real Hope and Change Begins 2NOV."

Catherine Childers, 60, a commercial real estate broker, flew up from her home in Jacksonville, Fla., with a group of like-minded supporters. She said she is frustrated with the slow economy and with policies that she believes have hindered the recovery, such as the stimulus package and government bailouts. A year ago, she said, she had a dozen employees. Today she has three and said she may have to close up shop.

"The average American has been asleep at the wheel," she said as the marchers flowed by her vantage point at the corner. "We think it's time the silent majority starts speaking up."

Shawna Chriestensen, 52, was in Washington for a family vacation with her husband and four grown children when she learned of the march and decided to participate.

"This is really encouraging," she said. "In Portland, Oregon, where we're from, we feel like we are a little minority. It's nice to know we are part of something bigger."

A similar event last year drew tens of thousands of protesters and energized the anti-tax tea party movement that has shaken up the political establishment. That original "9/12" rally, as it was dubbed, had been conceived of by Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, who aimed to connect the movement to the national mood that pervaded in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Beck, who held his own rally in Washington this year on Aug. 28, was not expected to be at the march today. The central organization backing the rally was FreedomWorks, the conservative group headed by former House Republican leader Dick Armey (Tex.), who was among the featured speakers.

While Beck's August rally was more religious in nature, this one was expected to skew political. The theme was "Remember in November," and organizers hope it will demonstrate that anti-tax conservatives are still motivated to hold lawmakers accountable for their actions in November and beyond.

"Today we are gathering to remind Congress and the president that we are fed up with their big-government policies," said Brendan Steinhauser, spokesman for FreedomWorks. "They have ignored independent voters and have continued to spend our tax dollars in a wasteful and inefficient way. Because the bailouts and the growth of the federal government have continued, we are now more determined then ever to replace those in power with leaders that will put an end to the failed economic policies of the current Congress."

A strong turnout would underscore the enthusiasm of the conservative base this year. This is just the latest tea-party-oriented march in the District this year. Unlike others that have benefited from good weather, this one began under gray skies and a persistent, cool drizzle.

The march along Pennsylvania was expected to get underway around midday and end at the front lawn of the Capitol. A litany of speakers was expected to take the microphone; among them Armey, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.

sandhya@washpost.com

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