Tea Party participants brew protest against government spending, health care proposal

November 10, 2009 

Pat Noll waves an American flag at the start of a rally sponsored by the Tea Party Express Nationwide Tour at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Beaufort on Tuesday afternoon. It was the the 35th stop on the Tea Party tour that started Oct. 25 in San Diego. The next stop is Jacksonville, Fla. The purpose of the Tea Party Express is to express opposition to out-of-control government spending and high taxes, according to a news release from the organization.

JONATHAN DYER | THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

A crowd of several hundred people came to Beaufort's waterfront Tuesday bearing signs, stickers and flags showing their displeasure with the U.S. government during a stop of the Tea Party Express, a 19-day, cross-country bus tour.

The boisterous crowd spilled from beneath the awnings of Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park to see and hear organizers of the tour, who describe themselves as members of an "anti-tax, conservative, tea party movement."

Before the event, vendors hawked T-shirts with slogans such as "I'll keep my money, guns and freedom. You keep the change."

Attendees' signs bore messages such as "downsize D.C." and "Rush and Glenn for president" -- an apparent allusion to political talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

Chants of "U.S.A!" broke out between spontaneous renditions of "God Bless America."

The event itself consisted of songs, speeches and tributes mixing patriotism and politics.

The event was billed as nonpartisan, although speakers celebrated this week's Republican victories in gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia and decried the Democratically controlled House passage of a health care bill.

Politicians who spoke included U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, and state Rep. Shannon Erickson of Beaufort.

Organizers hailed Wilson, who gained national attention for shouting "You lie" at President Barack Obama during the chief executive's address to Congress in September.

"Give me another 436 Joe Wilsons," an organizer called out as Wilson took the stage.

Wilson urged attendees to work for the defeat of the health care bill, saying they need to persuade only a few more members of Congress.

"We can make a difference," Wilson said. "We just need to get two or three more."

When he finished, organizers returned to the microphone and drew cheers when they suggested a future presidential ticket of Wilson and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who was pictured on a number of signs at the event.

Although the crowds at similar events around the country have been characterized as angry, Jim Fitzpatrick set out to protest government spending in a more light-hearted fashion.

The 54-year-old carpenter from Jacksonville, Fla., drove three hours Tuesday morning to attend the rally.

When passersby approached him beforehand, he opened an empty, grease-stained pizza box. On the lid of the box were the words: "Sorry, Congress got their share."

"I'm so angry," Fitzpatrick said when asked to explain his message. "You might as well laugh."

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