Trouble brewing between the Tea Party movement and the GOP?
Members of the Tea Party movement say they are not beholden to the GOP.
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"It wasn't like all of a sudden we woke up and said we need a Tea Party," said Amy Kremer, 49, one of the founders of the Atlanta Tea Party. "This came after years of rumblings through the conservative world. The fuel was already there and he (Santelli) just lit the fuse."Skip to next paragraph
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A small group of conservatives on Twitter instantly took up the Tea Party theme and in a conference call on February 20 they planned tea parties for the following week. On Friday February 27, 2009, a total of 48 tea parties were held around the country and coordinators estimated turnout at 35,000 people.
"That inspired me to keep going," he said.
Jenny Beth Martin, a former Republican activist in Atlanta, was on the original conference call and said after the surprising success of February 27, a second round was planned for April 15, the day American's taxes are due. Activists used Facebook to spread the word.
"It went viral," said Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns at FreedomWorks. "It was a beautiful moment for us because it's not like you could create that if you wanted to."
FreedomWorks, which is in frequent contact with up to 2,000 local leaders, estimates 3 million to 5 million people have participated in Tea Party meetings or donated money.
Martin said according to local organizers, on April 15 some 1.2 million people attended 850 tea parties. Martin and Meckler are now national coordinators of the Tea Party Patriots, a grouping of more than 1,200 local Tea Party groups.
Following the early rallies, the Tea Party movement evolved quickly, cheered on avidly by right wing commentators, above all Glenn Beck on cable channel Fox News.
"The past year has been like drinking out of a fire hydrant," Martin said. "Everything has moved so fast."
Early on Tea Partiers found an enduring target in the Obama administration's attempts to reform the healthcare system.
Highly publicized and frequently angry confrontations with members of Congress at "town hall" meetings in the summer became a hallmark of the Tea Party's first year.
"I WAS NOT ALONE"
A common thread to tales of Tea Partiers is that in the early months they discovered others felt the same and, all of a sudden, they felt empowered.
Tanya Bachand traveled to New York for the February 27 Tea Party event in New York and was surprised at how many conservatives there were in a liberal city. "I didn't even vote in the last midterm elections because I felt so disillusioned," she said. "But all of a sudden I felt I was not alone."
Bachand returned to Connecticut and started her own Tea Party group. She recalls an early meeting where a biker, a preacher and a businessman in a suit sat together on her living room couch.
"They had absolutely nothing in common, except they wanted to do what's right for this country," she said.