Tax protesters gather
Julie Spitzer, right, and Dick Martin brave the rain and snow Wednesday morning to protest at Broadway and Highway 22 for National TEA Party Day. Photo by Bradly J. Boner/JACKSON HOLE DAILYView our entire photo gallery >>
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
April 16, 2009
Protesters braved the slush that beset Jackson on Wednesday morning to display their opposition to government spending.
A handful of protesters — up to about two dozen at a time — manned the corner of Highway 22 and Broadway replete with signs imploring congressional leaders to “Stop Spending” and informing passers-by that “Capitalism Works.”
“I’m freezing, but this is important,” said Jackson resident Deborah Buckingham from under an umbrella. “I’m worried about the country shifting towards socialism. We’re spending money that we don’t have, and I’m worried about saddling my kids with debt.”
The protest in front of Cutty’s restaurant and bar was organized by Jackson resident Todd Graus, but was part of a nationwide effort called TEA Party Day. The national group chose April 15, the deadline for filing income tax forms, to call attention to how Congressional leaders are spending individuals’ taxes.
About 300 people participated in a protest in Cheyenne, The Associated Press reported. Organizers said there were also rallies in Sheridan, Buffalo, Gillette, Cody, Green River and Laramie.
In Jackson, Dick Martin and his wife, Linda, said they showed up at the protest to raise awareness about what was happening in the country.
“Maybe someone driving by will see the signs and decide to turn on a news channel and find out more,” Dick Martin said. “Washington [D.C.] is out of control with crazy spending, and if people don’t do something now we’re going to be in trouble.”
Several of the protesters said they arrived in front of Cutty’s about 10 a.m. and planned to protest into the afternoon. A highway cleanup was also scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Wednesday as part of the protest.
Although many of the protesters who showed up Wednesday said they were Republican, they maintained that the issue of government spending was one that crossed party lines.
“You don’t have to be Republican, Democrat or Independent to see we’re going down the wrong road,” Linda Martin said.
Drivers yelled questions from their windows while they were stopped at the intersection. Some honked in support, and at least one flipped off the group, protesters said.
Bill Luckett, executive director of the Wyoming Democratic Party, said he saw several small groups in Casper who also were protesting government spending.
Luckett said the protesters were being hypocritical and failing to acknowledge that they use some of the same services they were protesting.
“How many of them get Social Security?” Luckett asked. “Or subsidies for agricultural businesses? And where were they when the Republicans were in the majority or when [former President George W.] Bush took [former President Bill] Clinton’s surplus and took it into a deficit?”
Along with criticizing government debt, the Cheyenne protesters also railed against bailouts of private banks and companies, the Federal Reserve System, spending on social programs and gun control.
“We’re worried about the moral, political and economic direction of this country today,” said Kirk Kolkman, a telecommunications technician from Cheyenne who helped organize the event in that city. “We decided these events would be a forum to educate people on the Constitution, nation-alization of business and industry, and federal tax-and-spend policy.”
Duncan Philp, of Carpenter, carried a Gadsden flag reading “Don’t Tread on Me” and dragged a United Nations flag on the ground to display disrespect, he said. Philp said he’s a member of the Wyoming Tyranny Response Team, a group dedicated to the Bill of Rights.
“Bush and Obama have done the same thing,” Philp said. “They’ve given out loans for money they don’t have.”
Despite disagreeing with how their tax money is being spent, several of the Jackson protesters said they had already filed their taxes by the federal deadline.
“I don’t mind paying for my share, for roads and schools and everything,” Buckingham said. “But we’re tired of getting the rug pulled out from under us. We want more of a role.”
Luckett said individuals who make less than $250,000 a year are being taxed less under Obama.
– The Associated Press
contributed to this report.