Anti-Government Protests Draws Tens of Thousands to D.C.


washington-marchTens of thousands of conservative protesters crowded outside the U.S. Capitol today, a massive demonstration aimed at stopping what organizers called the over-expansion of the federal government under the Obama administration. Andrew Moylan, head of government affairs for the National Taxpayer Union, urged protesters to call their representatives. “You’re being ignored today by the media and some politicians,” he said.┬áThe crowd — loud, rambunctious and sprawling — gathered at the foot of the Capitol after a march along Pennsylvania Avenue from Freedom Plaza. Invocations of God and former President Reagan by an array of speakers drew loud cheers, echoing across the Mall. On a windy, overcast afternoon, hundreds of yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags flapped in the breeze, mingled with U.S. and Texas state flags.

“We own the dome,” the crowd chanted loudly, pointing at the Capitol.

About 30,000 people registered online for the march, according to one of the rally’s sponsors, FreedomWorks, a Washington-based group headed by former House majority leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.). FreedomWorks and other sponsors, including Tea Party Patriots and ResistNet, comprise a loose coalition of conservative groups that helped organize several health-care and anti-tax rallies during the spring and summer.

The crowd surrounded the Capitol Reflecting Pool, spilling across Third Street and onto the Mall. The sound system was inadequate to the throng; speakers on stage, at the Capitol’s West Front, were too distant to be intelligible to anyone near the edges of the rally.

“You will not spend the money of our children and our grandchildren to feed an overstuffed government,” Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) said of the Obama administration, drawing loud cheers from the throng.

“Our history is decorated by those who endured the burden of defending freedom,” Price said. “Now a new generation of patriots has emerged. You are those patriots.”

The protesters descended on Washington with a long list of grievances against a government that many complained is racing toward socialism. “Health care is not listed anywhere in the Constitution,” said Brian Burnell, 45, who owns an insurance company on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“How Is That Hopey Changey Thing Workin’ Out For Ya?” his placard read.

“You want socialism?” said Susan Clark, a District resident marching with a bullhorn. “Go to Russa!”

Participants in the demonstration spanned the spectrum of conservative anger at Obama, including opponents of his tax, spending and health-care plans and protesters who question Obama’s U.S. citizenship and liken his administration to the Nazi regime. By 11 a.m., the route between Freedom Plaza and the Capitol was a sea of demonstrators chanting “USA!” and carrying signs such as, “Taxed enough already,” “The audacity of dope” and, “Czars belong in Russia.”

Most signs were handmade: “Socialism is UnAmerican,” “King George Didn’t Listen Either!” “Terrorists Won’t Destroy America, Congress Will!” “The American Dream R.I.P.”

Many protesters carried the now-familiar poster of Obama made up to look like the Joker, captioned “Socialism.”
Another sentiment: “Cash for Clunkers! Trade in your congressman!”

“We’re all endangered!” shouted a passerby, Dave Rue, 67, a retired Mobil Oil employee who had traveled from New Jersey. “We’re endangered because they’re pushing socialism on us.”

Some came to protest what they see as government interference with gun ownership. Shaun Bryant, 40, a leadership trainer, was among eight people who flew in from Salt Lake City. They fashioned a sign with a drawing of an AR-15 assault rifle and the words “We came unarmed from Montana and Utah . . . this time!”

At the Federal Triangle Metro stop, demonstrators emerged from packed trains and broke into a rendition of “God Bless America” as they rode escalators to the street.

“Nobody’s standing up for us, so we have to stand up for ourselves,” said Phil Chancey, 66, who drove to the District from Clinton, Tenn., for the rally. The sign he carried, deriding the president’s health-care reform plan, read, “Obamacare Makes Me Sick.”

Debbie Wilson, 51, of Apollo Beach, Fla., flew to Washington last Sunday to make a week out of the protest. She drove to colonial Williamsburg in a rented car.

“We want our country to go back to the roots of doing what our Founding Fathers wanted us to do — less government in every aspect of my life,” she said. “We walked the streets of Williamsburg, and it felt like we were learning how to be a patriot.”

Dozens of signs mentioned Rep. Joe Wilson, (R-S.C.), who jeered at Obama during his health-care speech to Congress on Wednesday night. Dee Meredith, 62 of Callao, Va., said she had never heard of Wilson before he shouted at the president, “You lie!” At the rally, Meredith waved a placard: “Thank You Joe Wilson.”

“We’re the forgotten people, and he’s given us a voice,” she said.

When Armey, in his address to the crowd, referred to Obama having pledged to uphold the Constitution, the protesters shouted at the president in absentia: “Liar! Liar!”

Jeff Mapps, 29, a stagehand and labor union member from South Philadelphia, left home about 6 a.m. to come to the protest. He said he hadn’t been involved in previous Tea Party demonstrations, but he watches Fox News host Glenn Beck “all the time” and he wanted to be a part of something he thinks will be historic. Beck has been drumming up support for the march.

Holding a sign that said “Preserve, Protect, Defend” on a Red Line Metro train packed with conservative activists, Mapps fretted over a “blatant disregard for the Constitution.”

“We’ve been watching it for six to eight months,” he said. “It was finally an opportunity to get involved. It’s been boiling over . . . It’s not just about health care. It’s about so much more than that.”

Anna Hayes, 58, a nurse from Fairfax County, stood on the Mall in 1981 for Reagan’s inauguration. “The same people were celebrating freedom,” she said. “The president was fighting for the people then. I remember those years very well and fondly.”

Saying she was worried about “Obamacare,” Hayes said: “This is the first rally I’ve been to that demonstrates against something, the first in my life. I just couldn’t stay home anymore.”

Like countless others at the rally, Joan Wright, 78, of Ocean Pines, Md., sounded angry. “I’m not taking this crap anymore,” said Wright, who came by bus to Washington with 150 like-minded residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. “I don’t like the health-care [plan]. I don’t like the czars. And I don’t like the elitists telling us what we should do or eat.”

{Washington Times/ Newscenter}