Tea party activists rallied in the U.S. capital they love to hate on Thursday, carrying signs that read "Follow the Constitution." The close of their spirited cross-country tour fell on the last day for Americans to pay their income taxes, a dark marker for the conservative anti-tax movement.
On a sun-splashed day and serenaded by patriotic songs, the protesters streamed to a plaza near the White House to hear exhortations against the political order. The slogans were biting, sometimes raw: "We Want Regime Change," "Save a Seal, Club a Liberal," "Down with the Gov't Takeover," "End the Fed" and "Waterboard Bernanke." Some American flags waved upside down in the breeze.
People in the movement believe that government spending and influence should be limited. The movement's name is taken from the Boston Tea Party, a 1773 protest in which activists in the then-British colonies in America boarded ships and threw their cargo of English tea into Boston Harbor in a symbolic act of protest against taxes.
Tea party activists in the states of Oklahoma, Ohio, Wisconsin, Hawaii and Georgia also organized rallies coinciding with the April 15 deadline to file federal income taxes.
The movement opened its tour nearly three weeks ago with a rally in the western state of Nevada that drew at least 9,000 and heard from one of the few politicians embraced by the tea party, Sarah Palin, the Republican party's unsuccesful vice presidential candidate in 2008. Palin also starred at a tea party gathering of 5,000 on Wednesday in Boston but was not scheduled at the finale in Washington.
In midwestern Madison, Wisconsin, some tea party members angry over the planned appearance of former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson decided to boycott the event. They expressed worry their grass-roots movement may be co-opted by the Republican Party.
"It is a big problem for a lot of us," said Tim Dake, organizer of the Milwaukee-based tea party group the GrandSons of Liberty. "Tommy is representative of the old boy network way of doing things."
Dake said: "This is part of the problem that has led us to where we are now."
Dake said he heard from about six tea party groups from around the state that decided to boycott the event.
Elected Republicans and candidates as well as party officials have been a mainstay at tea party rallies all over Wisconsin in the past year but no Republican candidates or office holders were on Thursday's agenda.