The usually neat lawn outside the Moffat County Courthouse was trampled with the feet of about 200 residents Thursday during the Moffat County tea party tax day protest.
Protestors waved signs reading “Born free but taxed to death,” “Keep your Koolaid, I drink tea,” and “You can’t fix stupid, but you can vote them out.”
Standing on a curb, some protesters waved and encouraged passing cars on Victory Way to honk in support.
During speeches from tea party organizers, the phrases “reduced spending,” “fight for our freedoms” and “uphold the Constitution,” were meet with support and applause from the American flag-wielding crowd.
But among the crowd of vocal protesters sat the relatively reserved Lynn Bower, a retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeant who served nine years during the Vietnam War.
Bower, clad in a leather Marine jacket, said he was proud to see the rights he fought for in Vietnam being exercised by the crowd of protestors.
He said he attended the rally to stand up for his rights and because, “I’m a patriot, I love my country, and I love Moffat County.”
Frank Archuleta, 18, received a prize for being the youngest registered voter in the crowd and, like Bower, he felt he needed to exercise his democratic rights by attending the rally.
“A lot of the stuff they are saying is true,” he said. “(Attending the rally) is a good thing because it will show our government that the people care about what the government does.”
The rally started with a speech from former county commissioner Darryl Steele who said that at the very least, the tea party is getting legislators’ attention.
He went on to say that it’s important for voters to “work hard to elect the right people to represent us.”
“There are two things that an elected official has to have. … They have to be morally sound and fiscally responsible,” Steele said.
Tea party member Matt Winey spoke after Steele and addressed what the tea party is and what the organization stands for. He said that despite public perception, the tea party is not a lawless group, and they are not racist, violent or ignorant.
Rather, he said, the party stands in support of the U.S. Constitution and voices the message of fiscal responsibility and limited government.
“What we are is a bunch of Americans who want our country back,” he said during his speech.
Cari Hermacinski, a radio personality on 55 Country and Steamboat Springs City Council president, addressed the crowd.
Hermacinski said there has been an erosion of common sense in the government. She went on to address the national debt and the recently passed health care bill.
“This movement is a force to be reckoned with because the door to take back our country is wide open,” she said.
She also addressed the issue of voting for candidates who represent the people and said, “We must elect officials who will serve us, not lord over us.”
Rick Barnes, another tea party member, spoke to the crowd about the importance of local involvement in politics.
He said in order to make a difference in Washington, D.C., “It starts here, in our community and in front of our courthouse.”
“We can’t afford any more jobs losses, and we can’t afford any more taxes,” he said.
Barnes went on to say tea party participation doesn’t end after voting, but that voting for “the right officials is the very beginning” to “holding them responsible.”
Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner attended the event.
“I’m here to listen,” Danner said.
“This is very important to hear what everyone has to say. I just spoke with someone who said, ‘We need to get back to the basics,’ and I said ‘What are the basics?’
“‘Balancing the budget’ is what they told me, (and) ‘Standing up for American freedoms,’ and I believe in that.”
Winey said during his speech that it is not enough to simply attend the tea party protest but the that message should be carried forward.
“Tax day is over, but we are just beginning,” he said.