- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fourth of July “Tea Party” rallies, picnics, marches and other demonstrations were scheduled across the country Saturday to protest what organizers say is record federal spending and taxes by the Obama administration that enlarges government and threatens the nation’s prosperity.

Whether the turnout would match or exceed the hundreds of April 15 Tea Party protests remained to be seen, though a survey of dozens of publicized events from Maine to California suggested the grass-roots movement had not lost its energy and support.

The April 15 demonstrations drew an estimated 600,000 people to more than 600 events throughout the country, organizers said. Since then, the movement has remained localized, resisting efforts to turn itself into a national organization, and spawning hundreds of local, citizen-led groups that shun professional politicians at their meetings and public events.

While little media attention has been paid to the movement since then and some have suggested that its numbers were eroding, Tea Party leaders who have been monitoring the groups and this weekend’s activities dispute that.

“I don’t think this movement’s eroding,” said Adam Bitely, director of new media at Americans for Limited Government.

“When the president’s cap-and-trade energy bill came up in the House, a lot of the Tea Party groups were doing local work, calling members of Congress to urge them to vote against the bill,” said Mr. Bitely, whose NetRight Nation Web site tracks Tea Party activities.

“Most of these people don’t want to be connected to any one group. They are trying to run their own local political organizations and don’t need one national organization to do that,” he said.

Not all of them held their events on the Fourth, either, because many families were traveling over the long Fourth of July weekend, activists said. In Nashville, for example, about 800 people gathered in front of the Capitol on Monday. In Atlanta, the site of one of the largest demonstrations last April, planners canceled their event for the Fourth when they could not obtain permits, and have rescheduled their rally later this month.

In Washington, organizers said they expected several thousand people to attend a midday rally at the Capitol Saturday to hear speakers from conservative grass-roots groups such as American Majority, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Limited Government, FreedomWorks and the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.

Other events throughout the country were billed as patriotic family affairs with picnics, barbecues, musical groups, children’s games and rides and fireworks.

In Augusta, Maine, groups called the Maine Patriots and Paint Maine Red were scheduled to hold a daylong event at Capitol Park to hear speeches by representatives from local organizations and watch a performance by Mike Willette, billed as “a Las Vegas-style cabaret singer.”

In Chillicothe, Ohio, an “American Freedom Day Tea Party” was planned at the lakeside gazebo in Yoctangee Park, where participants were to hold a “discussion of key issues facing the country.”

In Brevard County, Fla., several thousand people were expected to gather at an Independence Day Tea Party at Space Coast Stadium “to call attention to the fact that the government is not acting in accordance with the founding documents of this country,” said Matthew Nye, chief organizer and chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of central east Florida.

At least 45 anti-tax, anti-spending events were scheduled Saturday across the state, officials of Tea Party Patriots said.

In Morristown, N.Y., protesters were holding a “re-declare your independence” event focusing on defeating the House-passed cap-and-trade legislation and reducing government spending.

• Donald Lambro can be reached at dlambro@washingtontimes.com.old.

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