'Tea party' in California, including a dump truck brigade

In California, one main issue is environmental laws. But protesters are targeting taxes and healthcare reform too.

Charles Dharapak/AP
'Tea parties' are back in action. Here, protesters for and against healthcare reform proposals demonstrate before the start of a town hall meeting hosted by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Jim Moran, (D) of Virginia at South Lakes High School in Reston, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009.

The high temperatures here Friday were matched only by the heat from throngs of Tea Party protesters who gathered at the statehouse to rail against everything from California’s environmental policies to national healthcare reform.

The rally organized by the Tea Party Patriots of California, part of the national anti-tax and anti-big government Tea Party movement, was officially dubbed the march to “save California from big government eco-regulation.”

But while protesters took aim at California’s water policies, environmentalists, and national cap and trade legislation, the rally was a showcase for the sort anti-Obama sentiment that is being aired on cable news and in town hall meetings across America.
And that anger appears to be contagious.

Friday’s rally was the Tea Party Patriots of California’s largest, says Mark Meckler, the group’s Sacramento coordinator. That growth, he says, is largely due to the spreading unease with the Obama administration policies -- namely healthcare reform.

In fact, another group, the Tea Party Express, used the Sacramento rally as a launching pad for a cross-country tour to protest the healthcare bill. They plan to arrive in Washington on Sept. 12.

“The government has been pricking at us for a longtime,” says Mr. Meckler, a registered independent. “Now they are slamming us.”

The posters and placards clearly displayed a similar sentiment: “Obama Care: A Grave Error,” “No Obama Care,” “Stop Socialized Medicine,” and “Blow up Obama Care.”
And the T-shirts on display showed off a sort-of unified fashion front against Obama.

Susan Stanford of Rockland, Calif., stood underneath a tent selling T-shirts with the image of Jesus and the message: “Real Hope.” The design mimics Shepherd Ferry’s famous campaign poster that has an image of Obama and the word “Hope”.

“He talked about hope and change, but didn’t change anything,” says Ms. Stanford.

Jackie Cantrell and Ray Draper, a couple from Sacramento, don't consider themselves particularly partisan (Mr. Draper called both Bush presidents "communists") but they do say they have been increasingly motivated to speak out because of Obama.

“We come out when it’s something that the government isn’t doing right,” says Ms. Cantrell, who was handing out flyers along with her husband for the conservative John Birch Society. “But what Obama is doing is scary," she says.

While many of the Tea Party protesters were united in their opposition to big government, many did come out for singular issues.

Susan Jones was one of about a 100 dump truck drivers who drove in circles around the statehouse to protest the California Air Resources Board (CARB). "We want to disband the board," says Ms. Jones as she shifts gears of her 1991 ten-wheel dump truck.

CARB has mandated that truckers must begin installing emission controls beginning in 2010. Many of the trucks, like the ones Jones owns, can't be retrofitted and will have to be retired. She would have to junk her fleet of three trucks.

Highlighting the many issues and myriad beliefs on display at the Tea Party, Jones says she's not against environmental policies. She just thinks this particular one is wrongheaded and ineffective.

"I am for the environment and want clean air," says Jones, whose truck window is decorated with a Grateful Dead sticker, as she waves to supporters cheering on the rumbling dump truck dissent.
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