About 5,000 Tea Party protesters gathered in St. Augustine on Saturday to voice their concerns regarding Democratic control of Washington, staying mostly positive despite an apparent effort to disrupt their rally.
Keynote speaker Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher set the tone by urging Tea Partiers to act, donate time or money to candidates and take their future into their own hands.
“I honestly think it’s absurd I became famous for doing my job as an American,” Wurzelbacher said. “As far as I’m concerned, I gave President Barack Obama a job interview. In my estimate, he failed but, unfortunately, the rest of the country thought he succeeded.”
Wurzelbacher said he mostly blames Congress and the American people for not stepping up and projecting their voices, but he argued that many of the country’s problems began with Obama.
“President Obama took a jab at the Tea Parties yesterday and the day before,” Wurzelbacher said. “That tells me he’s a little concerned. I won’t necessarily say worried, but he’s definitely concerned that the American people are speaking up.”
Saint Johns County Tea Party founder and organizer BreeLee Johnston decided to hold the local rally today instead of Tax Day so that people who have to work or go to school could do just that.
The rally brought together groups from all over Northeast and Central Florida.
Baker County events coordinator Joey Jacobs made the 90-minute drive to St. Augustine show his support for the cause.
“For too long, we’ve sat on the couch and complained,” Jacobs said. “It’s time we change it. We’re going to take our country back.”
Ken Hoagland, author of “The FairTax Solution,” who also keynoted the rally, said the top problem facing the U.S. right now is that it has become a government for aristocrats.
“The political class are using the national treasury to advance their own political ambitions and have badly corrupted the tax code,” Hoagland said. “Hidden from the public is the connection between government spending and personal earnings, and we are spinning our way off of a cliff.”
Lloyd Marcus, composer of “The Tea Party Song,” performed at the rally. Marcus, who just completed his Tea Party bus tour with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, flew to North Florida from Washington to sing at the rally.
Marcus, who is black, reported that he has never seen the movement to be racist or bigoted.
“I’m not African-American,” Marcus said. “I’m Lloyd Marcus, an American who happens to be black.”
At the rally, one Tea Partier was accused of ‘crashing’ the rally, or pretending to be part of the movement while saying or doing things that may hurt its image.
The alleged crasher held a plastic head of Obama, which he shoved on top of a stick. The forehead of the plastic head read “666,” and below the head was a sign with a communist symbol. Johnston had the crasher removed when he refused to take down the sign.
“That’s negative symbolism,” said Albert Martinez, a member of the St. Johns County Tea Party’s media group. “We’re all about positive symbolism.”
The crasher refused to leave and stayed outside the rally’s field with his sign, so Martinez made his own sign that read “Tea Party Crasher” with an arrow and pointed it at him.
Event organizers also had sign-in sheets to “keep the media honest” as to how many Tea Partiers were actually there. The Florida Times-Union reported that “more than 2,000” protesters were at a Tax Day Tea Party in downtown Jacksonville, which many St. Augustine Tea Partiers considered to be a gross understatement.
World War II veteran Gus Liapes delivered the closing remarks.
“It was an honor because I remember all my friends who were killed with me,” he said.
Liapas’ wife, Re, said that Tea Partiers regularly come up to her and say, “Your husband saved my life.”
“I think it [speaking at the event] gave him a good feeling because he knows all those boys did not die in vain,” she said.