April 16, 2010

Outing of outrage

Tea Party activists cluster in Augusta to slam big spenders

By Susan M. Cover
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- Mainers from across the state came Thursday to Capitol Park for a Tax Day Tea Party that showed the frustration of those upset with government spending and the direction of the country.

click image to enlarge

TEED OFF: Hundreds of people pack Capitol Park in Augusta on Thursday afternoon for a Tax Day Tea Party that featured speeches and rallying cries for less spending and smaller government.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

RILED UP: Garrett Lear, of Wakefield, N.H., who calls himself "The Patriot Pastor," was the first speaker at the Tax Day Tea Party on Thursday afternoon in Capitol Park in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

With signs that said "Tea, Hell! Let's throw Congress in the Harbor," "Obama Commander N Thief" and "You can't fix stupid, you can vote it out," the group of a few hundred assembled in the park for speeches and to meet others who feel the same way.

"I'm a little fed up with the taxes," said Carrie Pelletier, who drove up from York County for the event.

After a prayer, the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, "Patriot Pastor" Garrett Lear compared 2010 to the year before the American Revolution.

"We are not extremists," he said. "We are faithful patriots doing what the fourth branch of government -- the people -- are supposed to do."

A day earlier, two busloads of Mainers rode down to Boston for a Tea Party that featured former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the headline speaker. Although Palin wasn't in Augusta on Thursday, at least one sign paid tribute to the former Republican vice presidential nominee: "Do I love the USA? You bet-cha!"

While the hundreds gathered in Capitol Park thought they were taking a bold stand, at least one group in Maine made a statement in opposition by calling them "a colorful distraction."

Maine People's Alliance Executive Director Jesse Graham sent out a statement saying Mainers are fighting against higher health insurance costs and worried about the need for financial reform.

"These actual populist events are the real story, not some guy in a park dressed like Sam Adams," Graham said.

Pete Harring of Maine Refounders, one of two Maine Tea Party groups, said the movement has more than 1,000 members in Maine. He noted that this year's event was much larger than a similar gathering held a year ago.

"If we were all a bunch of liberals, we could have filled the whole park, 'cause none of them have any jobs," he said.

He criticized the federal health care law and said he wondered why Maine's two Republican U.S. senators "call themselves Republicans."

He also said the Democratic Party has been "taken over by progressives."

"We're going to do some good old-fashioned ass-kicking this November," he said. "Bring it on progressives, bring it on!"

Amy Hale of the Maine Patriots, the other state Tea Party group, said she's focused on helping people learn what's in the Constitution.

"The amount of spending going on is horrendous," she said. "They are driving our country into the ground."

Steven Power said he drove down from Rangeley Plantation to participate in the event because he wants to feel a part of the movement.

"The thing I'm most disappointed in, both in Augusta and Washington, is our leaders don't appear to be listening to the Constitution and the people," he said.


Susan Cover -- 620-7015

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