Residents lobby for change at Tea Party demonstration
Craig — Flannel shirts, blue jeans and American flags.
It almost looked like the Fourth of July, one woman said with a broad smile peaking out from behind a drape of loose blond hair.
About 15 minutes into the Tax Day Tea Party protest Wednesday afternoon, about 221 residents had gathered to voice their concerns about the government.
Their causes were varied.
The signs waved on the Moffat County Courthouse lawn showed a wide range of emotion.
Revolution is brewing.
Give me liberty or give me debt.
Moffat County resident Mary Bouchard said she loved seeing all the signs lined up along Victory Way. She hoped they and the people carrying them would do some good.
The government has taken too much money, freedom and authority from the people, Bouchard said.
She cited a report on right-wing extremists issued April 7 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as an example of the government’s persecution of law-abiding citizens.
The report states that military veterans returning home from the Middle East could be targets for right-wing groups with aims to disrupt the government, which Bouchard called “far-fetched.”
The Obama administration also released a similar report on left-wing extremists in January. George W. Bush’s administration initiated both reports.
Bouchard said she was certain Homeland Security was watching Wednesday’s protest in Craig.
“I heard it on the news this morning,” she said. “There’s only one news channel to watch, and that’s Fox.”
Others said they, too, believed the government was probably at the courthouse in some capacity.
Craig resident Patrick Germond said federal authorities are afraid for their control because of tea parties across the country – 760 in all, Craig organizer Rick Barnes said.
The people involved are not going to stop organizing, Germond added.
“This is a very peaceful group of Americans, but they are not pacifists,” he said. “They are in charge of this country, if it comes down to it. They are not going to let the Constitution be shredded in the dead of night.”
Local politicians joined the government protest, as well.
Moffat County commissioners Tom Mathers and Tom Gray each carried a small piece of paper with the letters “IRS” crossed over with a red slash.
Mathers said his only problem with the protest was it seemed too small.
“It’s not enough,” the commissioner said. “This ought to have everybody in Craig here. There’s nobody out there, that I know of, that agrees with the ways the federal government is spending their money.”
Despite Mathers’ assessment, the courthouse lawn was busy. Protestors waved and cars and trucks – including a Craig road and bridge department dumptruck – honked their support.
Inside, the courthouse was relatively quiet.
Most employees said they took a look out the window once or twice during the rally, but they mostly had to work.
Not everyone stayed in, though. Tammy Villard went out and met some of the crowd, though she did not necessarily support their cause.
“It’s good that they’re bringing attention to their cause,” Villard said. “I’m just not sure what they’re protesting against. I don’t know if they know what they’re protesting against.”
There were so many varying points of view, the crowd didn’t seem unified around one message, she said.
People are angry about taxes, but how far can that go, asked Villard, a registered Republican who did not vote for President Barack Obama.
“I’m just not sure what people expect to have if they don’t pay taxes of some kind,” she said. “My kids use the city pool, and I like to be able to go to the dump and use water, and if my house is on fire, I want the fire department to come put it out. That’s all paid for with taxes.”
Villard also saw a predominant anger about whether federal politicians recognize the interests of the public.
Waving a sign is one thing, she said. Participating in primary caucuses, voting and attending County Commission and City Council meetings is a better way to be involved.
“That’s the function of voting,” she said. “How many people turned out for the City Council election? Hardly any.”
One of the protestors, Maybell resident Larry Spalding, 59, said he will not miss the opportunity to cast his vote in the 2010 general election.
“I’m going to vote out every incumbent on the ballot, no matter what party,” he said. “I don’t believe we are represented by either party. In the last decade, the Republican Party has veered to the left in their fiscal policy. They’re not representing the people or the Republicans.”
With Americans organizing like they did in Craig on Wednesday, it’s possible that change can come, Spalding said.
“All power is vested in and drawn from the people,” he said. “We just need to realize it and organize, and then the politicians will all be in front of us again, saying, ‘Love me. Give me money.'”
Barnes said he wants to keep the local movement going and plans to organize another demonstration May 1. For more information, call him at 824-6991 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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