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The tea party comes to Austin

Thursday, April 16, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

A surprisingly large crowd of government wary, anti-tax activists filled the plaza in front of City Hall on Wednesday for Austin’s version of the nationwide Tea Parties. The assembled mass hoisted signs that ranged from the “Stop Obama’s Socialism,” to “I Can Stimulate Myself, Thanks.”

 

The protest took aim at proposed tax increases on the wealthy and Obama’s stimulus plan. For nearly three hours the crowd stood in the sun listening to a parade of conservative speeches, singing patriotic songs and occasionally joining together in a chant.  Governor Rick Perry and other state officials spoke.

 

The conservative protest is an odd phenomenon. Instead of peace signs and angry chants, the participants sang “God Bless America” and waved Texas flags. Many in attendance had tea bags hanging from hats or lapels. One man was dressed like Jesus.

 

Governor Rick Perry, wearing a camouflage ball cap, told the crowd “I’m not sure you’re all a bunch of right wing extremists but if you are, I’m with you!” Perry then launched into a few shouts of “States Rights!” to thunderous applause. When he commented on the slow erosion of rights brought on by the federal government, a few in the crowd shouted out “secede!”

 

Bob Shaw drove down from Georgetown because, “I thought this would be one of the more active tax Tea Parties, and I read that the governor was going to speak and that was an attraction.”

 

The affable retiree and Perry voter laughed that protesting was “virgin territory” for him. “But the whole idea of raising taxes is absurd,” he said. “It’s been proven time after time, that’s not what creates prosperity. Reagan had the right idea,”

 

Dustin Moore said he did not identify with any political party and “I found out recently that the United States of America is a corporation and that not a one of us is free.” He said his research into Gulf War Syndrome had led him to eventually conclude that “we have a tyrannical group of people running our country into the ground all to bankrupt us and enslave us.”

 

Others were not so willing to give their names, and several people opted for pseudonyms, such as “Samuel Adams.” One man said, “I ain’t giving you my name—forget it,” and asked to be identified as “Patriot.”

 

Organizers claimed that police estimated 1,500 people in attendance but Lisa Cortinas, Public Information Officer for the APD told In Fact Daily, “we didn’t have anybody do an official crowd estimate.” Regardless of how many were there, everyone seemed to agree it was more than they had anticipated.

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