Round 2 of Tea Party protests: a political powerhouse in the making?
Protests against taxes and red ink are set for this weekend. Their potential to form a formidable national movement is unclear.
Concerned about taxes, bailouts, government "pork," and rising deficits, thousands of Americans will spill out in cities from Atlanta to San Francisco this weekend, as part of a "Tea Party" movement that began earlier this year in protest of the economic stimulus bill.Skip to next paragraph
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The July 4 event will be the second major Taxed Enough Already (TEA) Party protest, following an April 15 event that drew as many as half a million people to over 800 separate protests across the country. This weekend's protests – sure to feature Colonial garb, witty signs ("Don't tax me, bro!"), and references to the Declaration of Independence – come amid rising concerns among Americans that the $787 billion stimulus package isn't doing much to restore the economy.
The movement has been panned by liberals and praised by conservatives. Libertarian blogger and law professor Glenn Reynolds says the protests represent "an energy that our politics hasn't seen lately."
The holiday weekend and the absence of Republican stars may reduce the size of the protests this time around. But the movement faces a bigger challenge – knitting a viable political coalition out of a geographically and ideologically dispersed community.
When did Tea Parties start?
The movement did not begin, as is often thought, with MSNBC reporter Rick Santelli's famous on-air rant against government bailouts at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Feb. 19, but several weeks earlier, when blogger Keli Carender organized a small protest against the stimulus bill in Seattle and homeschooling mom Amanda Grosserode organized a similar one in Overland Park, Kan. The cause was subsequently taken up by conservative bloggers such as Michelle Malkin.
The protests gained nationwide attention when Fox cable news network heavily covered the April 15 events.
Though supported by Republican think tanks, it is a grass-roots movement comprised of independents, conservatives, and libertarians, many say. Few attending these events have protested before, says Donalsonville, Ga., organizer Becky Worsham, adding, "A common joke at our first one was, 'Gosh, I've never protested anything in my life, and this feels pretty good.' "
The protesters' concern, she says, is that Washington "will really bring our country down to where we'll no longer be a superpower."
The April 15 protests
As many as half a million people attended the April 15 protests, according to the conservative Pajamas TV network. Events ranged from amateurish to professional: One in Atlanta featured massive TV screens and professional bands, while another in Lake City, Wash., drew only two dozen protesters.