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First time to the rodeo: the Obama administration riles angry taxpayers at Albany’s Tax Day Tea Party.

Photo: Chet Hardin

Tea Time

Angry taxpayers from all over the Capital Region want to be heard—but don’t call them Republicans

‘You Fascist Republicans made this mess! So sit down and shut up for the next 50 years!” At the Albany Tax Day Tea Party on Wednesday, this sign stood out from the crowd of anti-taxation, anti-Federal Reserve, anti-stimulus slogans. Two police officers rode up on their horses and told the older woman holding the sign that she had to go. “We’ve had a lot of complaints about you.”

“But I am part of the rally. This is just my opinion,” said the woman who claimed her name was Marie Maxwell (a man who knew her later said that she was using an alias.)

“Here, I’ll take the word fascist off,” she said and ripped the top of the sign off, but the cops were not satisfied. They had received complaints that she was yelling at people. No one who was gathered around her would say that she had been yelling.

“When we have other rallies, and there are counter-protesters,” the cop began.

“But I am not a counter-protester. I don’t like taxes any more than anybody here.” But the tax burden that the people are gathered to protest is a product of the Bush administration, she said, and not all the fault of Obama. “If you go eight years into the woods, it is going to take you eight years to come out.”

“We’ve gotten several complaints about you ma’am,” the cop said.

A crowd had gathered, and men were trying to debate with Maxwell. A young man tried to take a picture of her, and she smacked him with her sign, “Fuck off,” she yelled at him, and marched away, with the cops following behind her.

By 10:30 AM, the amphitheater at Corning Preserve was already filled with a patient, excited crowd. Well more than 1,000 people filled the amphitheater, spilled onto the grass, and stood at the edge of the foot bridge. That day, it depended on who you asked: There were 300 similar Tax Day Tea Party rallies across the country, no 500, no, according to Al Roney, 700.

This is part of a well-organized, and well-publicized movement promoted by Fox News, conservative writer Michelle Malkin, Republican Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, and Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions, among others. The organizers of Albany’s event, however, claim that theirs has always been an independent effort.

Roney, the day’s emcee, guessed that the majority of the crowd had never been to a political rally before—these were the people who were too busy working and squirreling away their money into 401Ks to bother with protest. But now, with their 401Ks gutted and their tax burdens growing more unbearable by the day, that tea party was a rally of urgent necessity.

The majority of the crowd was middle-aged, working class, with baseball caps and dress shirts tucked into belted jeans, their children in tow.

John Phillips of Flag Creek agreed. He came out to the rally because of the trillions in stimulus money that the Obama administration is pumping into the economy. He said that the rally was not a Republican event. “Branding these people anything is despicable,” said Phillips. “My friend is a progressive, and he wanted to come today.”

Phillips said that he has voted for as many Democrats as Republicans in his life, and that he sways left or right depending on the issue. “Today is a working day for most of us. Up until midnight last night, I wasn’t planning on coming. I was going to work, but I decided to take the day off. It is more important to be involved in this.”

He said that he pays his daughter’s full tuition to George Mason University, “But an illegal alien in this country gets away with paying four or five thousand. This kind of silliness has to stop. I can’t afford anymore. My property taxes doubled this year. I own my own business, and I told my guys to start looking for new work. I can’t handle any more taxes.”

The signs in the amphitheatre are nonpartisan entreaties against taxation and pork. Behind the podium, near the river, protesters gather with more radical signs, such as the little 6-year-old girl’s that read: “We are NOT citizens of the world.”

“We are Bible-believing Christians,” said the little girl’s mom, Lauri Anderson, of Coxsackie. “And the Bible teaches us that we are citizens of Heaven. I believe that God has given legitimacy of the governments, and that the government has overstepped its bounds.” She pointed to Obama’s support of choice, the “definitions of marriage,” and the tax burden.

The crowd began to chant “U.S.A.!”

Joy Andreassen of Leeds was left holding her husband’s sign: “Obama—we are proud of America. If you aren’t proud leave. We bow to no one!”

“Everything about Obama offends me,” Andreassen said. “I am very pro-life, and he is very, very anti-life. So everything he does offends me.”

This isn’t her first rally; she has marched on abortion issues in the past. When asked if the rally is nonpartisan, she was quick to say, “Yes, absolutely.”

“I don’t like the way the country is going in any way, shape or form. And he has only been in for a few months,” she said. “As soon as he got in, he took away a day of prayer. Who does that? And then he went right into abortion, and changed everything there. He is giving our money away, the future of our children.”

As for the previous administration’s responsibility for the financial issues the country is grappling with: “There is plenty of blame for everyone, but I don’t really blame Bush.”

It is hard to predict how this anger will resolve, other than voting out the incumbents, said David Guest of Granville: Republican and Democrat. All of them. Yet, when pressed, all of the protesters (save Marie Maxwell) who agreed to speak to Metroland offered that the best president of their lifetimes was Republican Ronald Reagan.

Does this rally represent a core constituency that the Republican Party ought to own? Of course, said a young Republican partner in a Schenectady law firm, one of the very few people that day wearing a suit, and one of the few who refused to give his name. “We need leaders who really enunciate American principles. We want leaders who will speak those principles, live those principles, and legislate them.”

“You know how hard it is to get these people to take the day off and come out for something like this?” he asked. “You know that these people are upset.”

While the current president topped the list of politicians that these aggrieved taxpayers wanted to see gone, out of office, the rally organizers and the speeches of the day tended toward a nonpartisan rant against politicians who no longer listen to the voter, and no longer feared their constituencies. Will this rally’s angst fade away, get folded into the Republican Party, like the Democrats absorption of the less- hardcore Naderites? Or will there be a revolution amorphously charted by the rounds of speakers, and Al Roney?

Standing next to the river, smoking, Bill Snyder and Jim Finkle of Round Lake offered their own, historically tried-and-true solution to the issue of politicians who no longer represent them.

“We have to start killing these people,” Finkle said. He sort of quoted Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of Liberty needs to be watered every 15 years with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

“In five years,” Snyder said, “we will be dragging all the politicians down here and hanging them.”

—Chet Hardin

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