FRANKFORT, KY. (AP) - Thousands of protesters, some dressed like Revolutionary War soldiers and most waving signs with anti-tax slogans, gathered around the nation Wednesday for a series of rallies modeled after the original Boston Tea Party. They chose the income tax filing deadline to express their displeasure with government spending since President Barack Obama took office.
The protests were held everywhere from Kentucky, which just passed tax increases on cigarettes and alcohol, to South Carolina, where the governor has repeatedly criticized the $787 billion economic stimulus package Congress passed earlier this year.
“Frankly, I’m mad as hell,” said Des Moines, Iowa, businessman Doug Burnett, one of about 1,000 people, many in red shirts declaring “revolution is brewing,” at a rally at the Iowa Capitol. “This country has been on a spending spree for decades, a spending spree we can’t afford.”
Large rallies were expected later in California and New York.
In Atlanta, thousands of people were to gather on the steps of the Georgia Capitol, where Fox News Channel conservative pundit Sean Hannity was set to broadcast his show Wednesday night.
In Boston, a few hundred protesters gathered on the Boston Common _ a short distance from the original Tea Party _ some dressed in Revolutionary garb and carrying signs that said “Barney Frank, Bernie Madoff: And the Difference Is?” and “D.C.: District of Communism.”
The tea parties were promoted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington and led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, a lobbyist whose corporate clients including Verizon, Raytheon, liquor maker Diageo, CarMax and drug company Sanofi Pasteur.
The group’s federal tax returns show its educational and charitable arms received more than $6 million in donations in 2007, the most recent year for which returns are available.
Organizers said the movement developed organically through online social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and through exposure on Fox News.
And while they insisted it was a nonpartisan effort, it has been seized on by many prominent Republicans who view it as a promising way for the party to reclaim its momentum.
“It is a nonpartisan mass organizing effort comprised of people unhappy with the size of government. All you have to be is a mildly awake Republican candidate for office to get in front of that parade,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
The movement has also attracted some Republicans considering a 2012 presidential bid.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich planned to address a tea party in a New York City park Wednesday night. His advocacy group, americansolutions.com, has partnered with tea party organizers to get word to the group’s members.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, another likely 2012 GOP presidential hopeful, planned to attend tea parties in Columbia and Charleston. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sent an e-mail to his supporters, letting them know about tea parties taking place throughout the state.
There were several small counter-protests, including one in at Fountain Square in Cincinnati, where about a dozen people protested the protesters, one carrying a sign that read, “Where were you when Bush was spending billions a month ‘liberating’ Iraq?” The anti-tax demonstration, meanwhile, drew about 4,000 people.
In Lansing, Mich., outside the state Capitol, another 4,000 people waved signs exclaiming “Stop the Fiscal Madness,” “Read My Lipstick! No More Bailouts” and “The Pirates Are in D.C.” Children held makeshift signs complaining about the rising debt.
“I’m really opposed to spending the way out of our problem,” said Deborah Mourray, 56, a business administrator from the Detroit suburb of Troy. “How I run my home is I don’t spend more money so my situation improves. Save and conserve.”
In Connecticut, police estimated 3,000 people showed up at the state Capitol in Hartford and another 1,000 at a rally in New Haven. Many carried makeshift pitchforks and signs with messages aimed at the Democrats who control Congress and the White House.
In Montgomery, Ala., Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” blared from loud speakers as more than 1,000 people gathered at the Alabama Statehouse.
Greg Budell, a radio talk show host, said the tea parties could have the same impact as when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a Montgomery bus during segregation in 1955.
“If one woman could change the world by refusing to move to the back of the bus, we ought to be able to change it by saying we are not going to let our government throw us under the bus and our children and our grandchildren,” he said.
In Frankfort, about 250 people gathered at the Capitol, where just a few months earlier Kentucky bourbon producers emptied whiskey bottles on the steps to protest alcohol taxes.
David Ransdell, a 66-year-old retired Baptist missionary from Lawrenceburg, donned an empty tea box as a hat and dangled tea bags around the sides.
“The future does not look real good for our country,” Ransdell said. “People are afraid that they’re going to be out on the street.”
Associated Press Writers Mike Glover in Des Moines, Iowa, Stephanie Reitz in Hartford, Conn., Beth Fouhy in New York, Kelsey Abbruzzese in Boston, Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., Shannon McCaffrey in Atlanta, Terry Kinney in Cincinatti, David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., and Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala. contributed to this report.
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