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Anti-Tax Tea Party Tour Comes to Washington

People attend a tea party protest in Washington, 15 Apr 2010

People attend a tea party protest in Washington, 15 Apr 2010

The grassroots cause known as the Tea Party movement has brought its demands for lower taxes and smaller government to Washington. The Tea Party rally in Washington was the final stop on a nearly three-week national tour.

After stops in 48 cities in 23 states, the Tea Party Express rolled to a stop just blocks from the White House.

The Washington rally coincided with tax deadline day in the United States, the day Americans must file their income tax returns with the government.

Tea Party Express organizer Amy Kremer addressed a crowd of several thousand people on Pennsylvania Avenue and predicted the movement would bring change to Washington in November's midterm congressional elections.

"We have a message for them," said Ms. Kremer. "They may not listen to us now, but I guarantee you they will listen to us in November when we vote the bums out!"

Tea Party supporters want to cut taxes, government spending and the federal budget deficit. They also oppose President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders, and many want to repeal the recently-passed health care reform law.

Congressional Republicans who spoke at the rally eagerly welcomed Tea Party supporters.

"Thanks for coming to the Devil's city to help us do the Lord's work!" said Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia.

Chambliss and other Republicans hope to tap the energy of the Tea Party movement to sweep them to victory over Democrats in the congressional midterm elections.

"And that in November we turn out in record numbers to show this administration that we are serious about spending, that we are serious about tax reform and that we are serious about bringing common sense back to the United States of America," added Senator Chambliss.

The Washington rally drew Tea Party supporters from across the country including Harlow Hansen from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"I am here to protest what the government is doing to us, taking our freedoms away, spending way too much money, ramming these things down the throat of the people without their consent," said Hasen.

But not everyone on hand welcomed the Tea Party Express. A lawyer from nearby Maryland, who did not want to give his name, engaged in an impromptu debate with Tea Party supporters and later expressed concern about some of their rhetoric.

"I just do not get what makes the Tea Party tick," he said. "I do not understand it. They think they are Americans, they think they are upholding the Constitution, and they are literally suggesting that violent acts be undertaken against the government."

A new New York Times-CBS News poll found that Tea Party followers tend to be white, male, older than 45, conservative in outlook and usually vote Republican. The Times poll found that 18 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Tea Party supporters. Among them, 90 percent disapprove of President Obama and roughly the same percentage believes that Mr. Obama is moving the country toward socialism.

In addition to Washington, numerous Tea Party anti-tax rallies were held around the country Thursday.

The Tea Party movement takes its name and inspiration from the Boston Tea Party of 1773 when American colonists dumped tea into Boston harbor to protest taxes imposed by ruling Britain.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.