Protesting President Obama’s economic policies, about 5,000 Tea Party activists rallied at Boston’s central park to demand fiscal restraint from Washington.
To thunderous applause, keynote speaker Sarah Palin, former Republican vice presidential candidate, praised what she called “a beautiful movement sweeping across this country.”
Jabbing at Democratic politics, Palin called for reduced federal spending, tax credits for new employers and a larger role for the private sector. In mild spring weather against a bright blue sky, Palin condemned the sweeping health-care overhaul recently signed by Obama.
“Just because you can, does not mean you should,” Palin said, in a twist on Obama’s campaign slogan, “Yes, We Can.” She told the crowd that the Democratic control of Washington was “nothing a good, old-fashioned election can’t fix.”
Today’s rally at the Boston Commons comes as the 19th day in a nation-wide, 45-stop tour that ends tomorrow — the federal tax filing deadline — in Washington, D.C. Organizers launched the tour in Searchlight, Nev., home of Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, a vulnerable four-term incumbent who is floundering in polls.
Attendees waved yellow “Don’t Tread on Me,” flags, a nod to Boston’s revolutionary history as the site of the original Boston Tea Party in 1773. They heard from Debbie Lee, the mother of Marc Alan Lee, the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, as well as several other rising conservative stars.
“You’ve been called hate-mongerers, swastika brandishers and brown shirts. And that’s just by members of Congress,” talk show host Michael Graham told the crowd. “This country was built by chumps and suckers like you, and I’m proud to be one of you.”
Activists from multiple ideologies came out to hawk their ideas. Signs read “Remember when dissent was patriotic?” “Ahoy Navy SEALS thar be pirates in DC!” and “Your wallet, the only place liberals are willing to drill.”
“MSNBC, here’s my deal,” Graham joked. “If you’ll ignore the loony, ranting maniac cook you find on the edge of the crowd somewhere, we promise to ignore Keith Olberman. How about that?”
A young, college-age black man who refused to give his name, was dressed in a dark suit with a red Swastika armband, a black Hitler-esque mustache and a “Hopium” sign on his chest, a reference to Obama’s “Hope” campaign literature. He sat at a table with a “Barry Obama” nameplate next to two young white men, one dressed in drag as the “Queen of England” and another with a pig snout as “Bailout Barney Frank.”
Kathryn Heady, 26, now unemployed but a former worker in the pharmaceutical industry, sporting a Mad Hatter cap reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland Tea Party, said she was came out for one reason.
“Spending. It’s out of control, and this isn’t a new thing,” she said. “People are voting along party lines and not reading the bills, not investigating what the candidates stand for. And even the candidates themselves are following the party lines. I believe in rational thought and there is just an obscene lack of it everywhere.”
There were plenty of counter-protesters, including the United Steelworkers Union Local 8751, a group of Boston school bus drivers carrying signs accusing Tea Partiers of sexism and homophobia, chanting “Palin, Tea Party, we say no! Racism has got to go!”
“Maybe they’re trying to correct the fact that they spit on the CBC [Congressional Black Caucus],” said Steve Gillis, vice president of Local 8751, when asked about the fact that the Tea Party rally featured several African-Americans including Lloyd Marcus and William and Selena Owens. Gillis was referring to unconfirmed reports about a Tea Party event in Washington.
Massachusetts Republican Party establishment leaders were noticeably absent, including newly-elected Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, who swept to electoral victory in January thanks in large part to Tea Party grassroots activists.
Conservative radio host Mark Williams gave Brown a pass, saying the freshman senator was busy with a hearing on the Iranian nuclear program.
“That’s a heck of a lot more important than being here,” he said while pumping up the crowd before Palin’s speech.
Williams and other activists were quick to point out that they believe the Tea Party
movement does not favor one party or the other.
“I’ll show you the knife wounds in my back from the Republican party sometime,” Williams said.
“When we go to the polls, we vote on principle and values, not according to the letter next to somebody’s name,” said Amy Kremer, a director of the Tea Party Express. “This is not about somebody being Republican, this is not being a Democrat, this is about being American.”
Charles Baker, the Republican gubernatorial frontrunner, was also absent from the event. Long-shot Republican candidate Christy Mihos floated a banner sign from behind an airplane reading “Chris’tea’ for governor.” Democratic-turned-independent candidate Timothy Cahill was scheduled to arrive at the rally after Palin’s speech.
Watch the slideshow of the rally below: