Today, ThinkProgress went over to Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House to attend one of the many right-wing Tax Day Tea Parties taking place nationwide. Although the speaking program wasn’t set to begin for another hour or so, there were already about 50 people standing around in the rain from as far away as Greece, Kentucky, California, and Tennessee.
The protest organizers were struggling to get the event together. They had originally planned to unload a rented truck filled with a million tea bags into the park, but were stopped by officials because they didn’t have a permit. A woman in charge of the protest announced that the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute had generously agreed to display the tea bags at its headquarters a few blocks away. She also said that there were originally supposed to be two stages with events, but the metropolitan police had blocked them from putting a stage on the sidewalk. A woman standing next to me leaned over and said, “That’s big government for you!”
Despite the dreary weather, participants were in high spirits. Almost everyone with whom we talked had heard about the protests through Fox News (because the rest of the mainstream media wasn’t covering them), including Glenn Beck’s 912 Project. A few young men had learned about them through Facebook as well.
There seemed to be universal consensus that President Obama was leading the country into socialism, a talking point repeatedly pushed on Fox News and other conservatives. The leading concern by participants was the government’s out-of-control spending and taxation (although one woman was also against “amnesty for illegals” and there was another sign protesting “card check”).
ThinkProgress spoke with three protesters from Pennsylvania who, like many other participants, thought that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney represented the future for conservatives. One young man said that it wasn’t “fair” that “if you make over $200,000 a year, you get a higher tax.” “America was founded on building yourself up,” he added. Watch it:
Another group of protesters — from Kentucky and Levittown, PA — also liked Romney, but were skeptical of his government health care plan in Massachusetts. They believed that “drug companies” have been “taking care of people” and care should be left to the free market:
SPEAKER 1: My problem with people who don’t have health care — If you can’t afford it, ok, I’m with it. But don’t tell me you can’t afford it when you’re driving a new car with rims, you’ve got a cell phone, and every electronic gadget under the sun.
SPEAKER 2: Well, it’s just like everything else. They’re trying to address a problem that really isn’t a problem. Just like when they gave us senior Medicare with the drug benefit — we didn’t need it. The drug companies were taking care of people who could not afford it.
Some other scenes from the Lafayette Square tea party:
Although one man insisted to me that the tea parties were not “political” or “partisan,” we didn’t see any anti-Bush/Republican gear.
UPDATE: TP reader Chris captured more pictures from the event:
Twitter user rkref also captured a picture of a Lafayette Square protester with a signing reading, “Hang ’em high” and listing several Democratic lawmakers. Another protester suggested jailing Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). Someone else held up a sign saying, “Blackbeard Obama — King of the tax pirates.” User n1rm captured a sign showing Obama as Steve Urkel. Washington Independent has more pictures.