The Hawk Eye, Matt Ryerson/AP
Rev. Brad Cranston, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Burlington, Iowa, left, speaks
during a demonstration "tea party" against taxes.

Tax Day “Tea Parties” Planned Across the Nation

April 15, 2009 01:00 PM
by Cara McDonough
In the spirit of the 1773 Boston Tea Party, protesters of the president’s policies on taxes and spending have planned more than 700 events in all 50 states.

Tea Party Organizers Looking to History

Tens of thousands are expected to turn out for the Tea Parties, which have largely been organized online by fiscal conservatives who are upset about President Obama's spending policies.

The events could mark a new era for conservatives, ABC News reports. "This is the birth of a completely new movement, with a new face, that hasn't been seen anywhere in the country," said Eric Odom, who is running two Web sites designed to connect supporters of the protests.

And the events have come together in a surprisingly short period of time. Just two months after CNBC's Rick Santelli suggested there should be a "Tea Party revolt" in his hometown of Chicago, the idea spread through grassroots efforts. Organizers expect at least several thousand people at the Federal Building in Chicago today, as well as more than 10,000 near the statehouse in Atlanta and more than 7,000 in Dayton, to name a few.
Smaller events have taken place in recent months. Tanya Bachand, a woman who attended an event in Stamford, Conn. in March said to the Hartford Courant that the Tea Party events are a good opportunity to meet people who think like her. Alarmed by the billions of dollars being spent by the government, she felt driven to act. "I felt a responsibility, as a parent and as a citizen, to do something.”

Bachand went on to organize a Tea Party event for April 15 in New Haven. The official Tax Day TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party Web site has a map of all the events scheduled around the country today. 

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Historical Context: The Boston Tea Party

On Dec. 16, 1773, members of the Sons of Liberty boarded British ships in Boston Harbor and destroyed their cargo of tea in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party. The event was another crucial step toward the Revolutionary War.

At the time, tea was a crucial export for the British Empire. The East India Company, which trafficked in tea and was an important tool of Britain’s colonial expansion, was close to bankruptcy. The British government responded by excusing the East India Company from customs duties on tea shipped to the American colonies.

The move made imported British tea less expensive than smuggled tea, creating an unfair advantage for British merchants. Unwilling to contribute to British tax revenues, the colonists only purchased tea that was smuggled into the country.

During the dramatic Boston Tea Party, members of the Sons of Liberty, a secret revolutionary organization, boarded three British ships. Shouting “The Mohawks are come!” and “Boston harbor a teapot tonight!” they split open tea chests with tomahawks and threw 35,000 pounds of leaves overboard.

Background: Obama’s financial policies

President Obama’s stimulus bill is an effort to rejuvenate the worst U.S. economy since the Great Depression. The bill includes large amounts for state aid, infrastructure and alternative energy, as well as social spending, including education, health care and food stamps. Some of the programs are expected to boost the economy almost immediately, while other benefits could take years to manifest.

The plan has sparked a sharp partisan debate in both the Senate and House of Representatives and, as the Tea Party events show, across the country. Critics, including a large majority of elected Republicans, have spoken out against the breadth of the bill, and an inevitable increase in the country’s budget deficit.

Other parts of the stimulus that have garnered particular criticism include funding for pursuits that are considered to fall more within the Democratic agenda, including $50 million for promotion of the arts and $335 million for education about sexually transmitted diseases.

Opinion & Analysis: Brilliant grassroots effort or 'insanity?'

Today's turnout could prove whether the organized Tea Parties are a rousing success or a bust.

Dick Armey believes that only good can come of the nationwide protests, writing that "We conservatives have decided to take our grievances to the streets," in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Conservatives had to sit back and watch as Congress went on a "spending binge," he says, and now, frustrated Americans are summoning the spirit of the original Tea Party as they fight against spending that they belive will leave the country with a multi-trillion dollar deficit.

The events are notable, too, because they were organized online, through social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the same tools Obama used in his campaign. "That will be the legacy from the tax-day tea parties, an online network organized to hold politicians accountable for the debt they are piling up," Armey writes.

But Marc Cooper of the Los Angeles Times writes that he can only recall a few instances of such "collective insanity" as these tea parties in recent years. He questions the reasoning behind the events: "what's the beef behind today's protests? The Obama administration is cutting taxes for all except the very richest of Americans."

And Hale "Bonddad" Stewart of the Huffington Post asks where the protests were eight years ago when Bush, who "was the biggest spender since LBJ," took office. Conservatives are, at the heart of it, protesting Democratic governance, he writes, and that's fine. But, he says, "don't tell me it's about spending or debt. If that were the case, you guys should have taken to the streets years ago."

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