Tea Partiers Get Rowdy in Iowa
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A boisterous, if not outright angry, crowd of about 100 people gathered in downtown today to protest government spending and high taxes.
While some in the Republican Party have called for the demonstrations to include social conservative issues such as gay marriage and abortion, the Cedar Rapids event remained mostly true to fiscal issues. This was largely due to the fact that demonstrators in attendance seemed to hold little allegiance to either of the nation’s two major political parties.
Cedar Rapids resident Greg Happel dressed as Abraham Lincoln and addressed those in attendance at the Cedar Rapids Tea Party.
While some in the crowd yelled for the ouster of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), just as much animosity was expressed toward Iowa’s two U.S. senators — Democrat Tom Harkin and Republican Chuck Grassley.
“For as long as they’ve been in office, it sure doesn’t seem like Harkin and Grassley have figured it out,” said Tim Pugh, a Cedar Rapids resident who launched the organizing Website for the local event.
During the continued discussion on term limits and the need for citizen recall of elected officials, one participant shouted: “We put their ass in office. We should be able to take them out.” Those in attendance roared their approval.
Greg Happel, another Cedar Rapids resident who organized an earlier demonstration and began discussions for this event, said he wasn’t at all prepared for the number of people who ventured into downtown today.
“I’m really at a loss to know what to say except thank you,” he told those gathered below the Tree of the Five Seasons, a local landmark near the Cedar River. “I don’t think we are prepared to discuss specific issues today, but this is just the start of the conversation.”
Image has not been found. URL: http://iowaindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/eugene_pinney.jpgEugen Pinney of Cedar Rapids was the lone, publicly defiant demonstrator at today's event.
Happel and Pugh encouraged participants to stay active via the Internet, and, upon prompting from a military veteran in attendance, tentatively set plans for another tea party at 5 p.m., just before a scheduled Cedar Rapids City Council meeting. Once the meeting commences, protesters plan to attend and give council members “a piece of our mind.”
“The sleeping mayor has awoken the sleeping giant,” one participant, referencing a videotape of Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran nodding off during a meeting, yelled in approval. Halloran has since disclosed that she has a medical condition that contributed to the incident.
“They are wasting our money,” yelled another audience member. “Let’s make them earn it. Let’s tell them that enough is enough.”
Although some attending the event were clearly not taking part in the activity, only one man stood — in his own words — “in protest of the protest.” Cedar Rapids resident Eugene Pinney stood on the 1st Avenue bridge with a handmade sign that read, “more taxes.” While most passing on their way to the event were satisfied with asking Pinney to pay their tax bill or to send the government additional money, at least one demonstrator threatened to toss Pinney off the bridge.
Image has not been found. URL: http://iowaindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/tim_pugh.jpgTim Pugh (right) and Greg Happel encouraged those in attendance to continue the conversation and identify specific issues for future demonstrations.
Image has not been found. URL: http://iowaindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/teaparty2.jpgFollowing a few short speeches, demonstrators symbolically emptied containers of water off the bridge and into the Cedar River.
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Lynda Waddington is a reporter for TWI’s sister site, The Iowa Independent.