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Taxpayer March on Washington

A man carries a "Don't Tread On Me" flag as he joins the march to the Capitol.On September 12, 2009, thousands of demonstrators converged on Washington DC for the Taxpayer March on Washington, part of the Tea Party Movement. The march took demonstrators from Freedom Plaza near the White House to the west front of the United States Capitol. The event was organized by various groups including FreedomWorks (chaired by former GOP Congressman Dick Armey), the National Taxpayers Union, The Heartland Institute, Americans for Tax Reform (founded by Grover Norquist), Tea Party Patriots, and ResistNet. Additionally, then-Fox News commentator Glenn Beck promoted the event on his show.

This was a new experience for me. While I have covered many protests in the past, these had all focused on left-wing issues and Anonymous. Never had I covered a right-wing event before. This was uncharted territory for me, and I didn’t know quite what to expect. This group, known in the circles I frequent as “teabaggers”, had made a name for itself with the various activities over the spring and summer of 2009, including political rallies, and disruptions of town hall meetings with members of Congress. I considered this to be a “known hostile crowd”, so I was extra careful about everything I said and did. I kept my own opinions to myself, and generally tried to work the crowd a bit to get some good shots. In a town as liberal as Washington (referring to the residents), this was certainly an eye-opener about what the other side was thinking.

This was also by far the largest demonstration that I had ever been to. The march from Freedom Plaza was supposed to start at 11:30, but due to the large numbers of people, causing Freedom Plaza to quickly fill up, the march ended up stepping off even earlier than that.

So come with us as we observe the Tea Party Movement’s first national march on Washington. The event started at Freedom Plaza, where people gathered prior to marching to the Capitol…

Two men hold plungers with plumbing-related signs.  A man holds a sign calling on Congress to make existing programs sound before authorizing more entitlement spending.  A man wears a hat decorated with Luzianne tea bags, symbolizing the Tea Party Movement.

A man holds a sign saying, "Fox Nation, Truth, Liberty".  A woman holds a sign equating President Obama with Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Fidel Castro.  A couple wearing shirts showing the flag over the Declaration of Independence hold signs critical of the President and Congress.  A man holds a sign indicating where he holds his allegiance.

A young woman holds a sign with a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson, saying, "Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have."  A woman carries a sign showing the Barack Obama "Joker" poster.  A man holds a sign comparing health care reform to fascism, using a right-facing swastika to symbolize this.

A man holds up a banner accusing various media organizations of being state-controlled. Note misspelling of "Barack" next to the ABC logo.  Two men hold signs comparing President Obama to pirates. Note the misspelling of Obama's middle name, "Hussein".  A man carries a small flag and holds a sign containing various Biblical quotations.  A man holds a flag while wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. I confirmed - his use of the mask had nothing to do with any anti-Scientology stance (DC Anons had considered trolling the event).

A woman holds a sign reading, "I weep for my country."  Three women sit on the wall around Freedom Plaza holding signs.  A man holds a sign taking the Obama campaign's "O" logo and making it part of the phrase, "LOL!"

A couple dressed in such a way to resemble colonial attire holds a banner reading, "Mr. President, a half truth is often a BIG LIE!"  A woman holds a sign equating the 2009 health care reform efforts with killing babies and the elderly, as well as with Nazi death camps.  A man wearing a striped uniform and a ball and chain holds signs and an Obama cutout accusing the President and Congress of elitism and catering to special interests.  A woman holds a sign advocating term limits for all politicians.

A man holds a sign showing President Obama tearing up the Constitution.  A man holds signs advocating waterboarding Congress, and referring to President Obama as "Obama Bin Lyin'".  A man holds a four-sided sign, reading "Time For A Tea Party" on one side, and "Stop spending and legalize the Constitution" on another.

A man holds a sign saying "Read the bills". At this time, there were multiple bills for health care reform on Congress's plate, and so the signmaker deserves credit for noting this.  A couple wears shirts that say, "No thanks, I don't do Marxism", and stickers that say, "POOP: Prisoners of Obama's Policies".  A woman holds a poster with the straightforward message, "Obama Sucks".  Two women hold signs while sitting on a wall next to the John A. Wilson Building. It is worth noting that the phone number on the sign that the woman on the right is holding is apparently a legitimate phone number, going to a residence in Painesville, Ohio.

A group from Michigan holds a banner comparing "them" with "us" and how "American" each group's values are.  A woman holds up a sign that combines the Obama "O" logo with the hammer and sickle, with the words, "No socialism, no czars" around it. It should be noted, however, that the Russian czars were not communists.  A woman holds two signs: One equating community organizers with angry mobs, and a second containing a quote from Hillary Clinton about the right to criticize presidential administrations.

Crowd at Freedom Plaza as seen from the upper steps of the John A. Wilson Building.  Crowd at Freedom Plaza as seen from the upper steps of the John A. Wilson Building.

Crowd at Freedom Plaza as seen from the upper steps of the John A. Wilson Building.  Crowd at Freedom Plaza as seen from the upper steps of the John A. Wilson Building.

A person in the crowd holds a sign advocating against emissions trading, otherwise known as "cap and trade".  A man holds a sign indicating that the opposition is with President Obama's character rather than his race. It should be noted, however, that the photo of Obama smoking is a forgery, with the cigarette having been digitally added later.  Crowd at Freedom Plaza as seen from the upper steps of the John A. Wilson Building.

A sign describes right-wing pundit Glenn Beck as a "Great American Patriot".  A young woman holds a sign reading, "Save some money for my generation".  A man holds a sign saying, "The turds must be flushed".  A man dressed in colonial garb holds a sign saying, "We the people want the same health benefits as Congress". Note the Bluetooth headset that the man is wearing.

A woman holds a sign reading, "Senior citizen cancer patient: NO MARXIST MEDICINE!!"  A crowd of people leaves Freedom Plaza to begin the march to the Capitol.  A woman wearing an Obama mask (with cigarette danging from the mouth) depicts President Obama as a king with the sign, "Yes, I am".

A woman holds a sign saying, "Bury Obamacare with Kennedy".  A woman holds a sign denouncing socialism, while a man holds a sign questioning President Obama's citizenship.  A man sells political buttons relating to historical political figures and current events.  A woman holds a sign saying, "Answer Glenn Beck's Questions!" Note the lack of apostrophe in "Beck's".

A crowd of people leaves Freedom Plaza to begin the march to the Capitol.  A man holds a sign reading, "Obamas Amerika". Note that the bottom of the sign is actually the back part of a rifle.  A crowd joins the march, coming directly out of Federal Triangle station.

A woman wears a costume depicting the Statue of Liberty in chains.  A man carries a "Don't Tread On Me" flag as he joins the march to the Capitol.  A woman holds a sign discussing economics as it relates to health care.  A sign attached to an American flag assembly reads, "Support Obama health care: Kill yourself".

One man's poster refers to Cass Sunstein in a message about gun control, and another man's poster gives a new meaning to the acronym ACORN.  A woman holds a sign reading, "BO equals BS".  A man wears a shirt depicting a hammer and sickle with the phrase, "Welcome to the USSA".

As the crowd at Freedom Plaza started to clear out and hit the march route (with more people coming out of the Metro all the time), I started to make my way over to Capitol Hill to cover the rally. I did not join the tea party group in their march up to the Capitol, however. I took the Metro from Federal Triangle up to Capitol South station and joined up with them again at the Capitol. On the west lawn of the Capitol, a rally was taking place. The west lawn of the Capitol was completely full of people, with some people watching the rally from as far back as the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

Two people sit on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol next to various protest signs.  A couple holds their protest signs. The man's sign says, "Czars gone wild", while the woman's sign equates redistribution of wealth with communism.  Crowd on the west lawn of the Capitol.

A sign on the Capitol's west lawn advocates a Sarah Palin/Joe Wilson (presumably Republican party) ticket for the 2012 presidential election.  A man sits on the west lawn of the Capitol holding a sign reading, "If you don't write it or read it then don't sign it. No new legislation!"  A poster's message advocates resetting the system by "flushing" Washington.  Various protest signs, with the Capitol dome in the background.

Various people sit in lawn chairs on the west lawn of the Capitol. The woman in the center of the photograph appears somewhat surprised by a message on her cell phone.  A man wears a tinfoil hat.  Crowd on the west lawn of the Capitol, with the Capitol dome visible in the background.

Crowds watching the rally from as far back as First Street.  The back side of a woman's shirt reads, "Today I'm exercising my First Amendment so tomorrow I won't have to exercise my second amendment."  A woman wearing a pig hat places her hand over her heart while "The Star-Spangled Banner" is sung.  Two women hold signs, with one advocating term limits for politicians, while another denounces manmade climate change.

A man props himself up with an elbow while laying on the west lawn of the Capitol.  A man holds a sign showing an image of the White House with the message, "Get off our lawn".  Crowd on the west side of the Capitol, as far back as First Street.

A sign advocates for change at the 2010 midterm elections.  A woman's sign advocates tossing out incumbents during the 2010 midterm elections.  A woman's sign takes President Obama's initials, and equates it with body odor.  "Joe Wilson speaks for me" sign attached to the top of a flagpole. This refers to Congressman Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst during a speech by President Obama in a joint session of Congress.

A man hangs tea bags from his hat, putting the "tea" in "Tea Party".  A woman holds a sign saying, "Stop the mob before it's all gone", depicting various politicians in Uncle Sam costumes and holding wads of money.  Three men join the tea party rally from the north, with signs playing on the Obama "O" logo. I consider the man in the maroon shirt in the center of the photo to bear a striking resemblance to G. Gordon Liddy (but I'm not implying that G. Gordon Liddy attended the event).

Sign referring to Obama's economic plan as "Obommunism", and referencing Ross Perot's "giant sucking sound" comment.  A man holds a sign mounted to a broom, symbolizing cleaning house in the 2010 midterm elections, and promoting one of right-wing pundit Mark Levin's books.  A child holds a sign reading, "Don't thug me bro", referencing the University of Florida Taser incident from 2007.

I certainly took a lot from this demonstration. This group was definitely fired up and displeased with the direction that they believed the country was heading. However, I couldn’t help but laugh at times when I saw misspellings on signs, reverence for various right-wing pundits such as Glenn Beck and Mark Levin (Rush Limbaugh‘s name was noticeably absent), and what appeared to be a somewhat light grasp on history based on the signs’ messages (the Russian Czars were not communists, for one – rather, they were ousted by the communists). I was also surprised to see the Guy Fawkes mask being used. I was accustomed to that particular mask’s being used in the context of anti-Scientology demonstrations (like the one I attended later that day), but this usage seems a bit more in line with what V for Vendetta and Guy Fawkes were about. I also have to hand it to the organizers – they got people to show up in large numbers. I have never seen a crowd quite this large in my experience at a left-wing event. The National Equality March a month later certainly had large numbers, but when comparing the crowd at the Capitol then with this event, this event was definitely larger.

Then I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what the Tea Party Movement’s next move will be…

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