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Clutching a handmade sign that read “No Public Money for Private Failure,” Dr. William Duke was one of about 300 people to protest federal policies, especially the recent $787 billion federal stimulus and bank bailout bills, at a Tax Day protest held here Wednesday.
Modeled after several other protests being held throughout the United States, Lancaster’s TEA Party was a forum where people could protest against taxes and government spending.
TEA stood for Taxed Enough Already. The event was held in the parking lot between Main and Catawba streets adjacent to the courthouse.
Duke, a retired physician, said he was surprised at the number of attendees. He was glad so many people were there to speak out against the “socialist policies” he said have taken hold in the federal government.
“We wanted to stand up for what’s right in this country,” Duke said. “I’ve always been politically motivated and I wanted my voice to be heard.”
Duke’s wife, Jan, said it’s vital for people to speak out. She said policies such as the new stimulus bill are examples of how spending has spiraled out of control.
“I’m just angry with the irresponsible and reckless spending by Congress,” Jan Duke said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Bobbie Payne got to work at 4 a.m. just so she could leave early and attend the event. Payne, who lives in the Buford area, said she’s less worried about herself and more about debt that could affect future generations.
She worries what her grandchildren, 4-year-old Kendall and 2-year-old Tucker, will have to deal with in terms of taxes.
“I am deeply concerned about leaving them in the mess we have here,” Payne said. “My husband and I wanted to make our presence known so politicians will know people even in Lancaster are fed up.”
Winston Smith, chairman of the Lancaster County Republican Party and organizer of the event, said he was amazed at the response from those who attended.
“I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the people who came out and humbled by the people who see what’s happening with the government and want to do something about it,” Smith said.
Smith said the protest was planned mainly in response to the $787 billion federal stimulus bill, though it’s also a reaction to spending by the last few presidential administrations. He said the event was open to everybody, regardless of their political affiliation.
The crowd sang several patriotic songs in between listening to a variety of speakers.
Rob McCoy, owner of McCoy Motors in Indian Land, was one of those speakers. He said he represented small business owners.
Much like the Boston Tea Party, where tea was dumped into Boston Harbor to protest taxes imposed on the colonies by the British, McCoy said Americans should send a similar message to the U.S. government today.
“Our government is spending trillions of dollars, and our children and grandchildren, that’s who’s going to be paying for this,” McCoy said. “I hope you’ll send e-mails, send letters and make phone calls to say we won’t take it anymore.”
Two other speakers, former state Sen. Greg Gregory, a Republican, and conservative speaker Chad Connelly, spoke out about government intrusion and ever-increasing taxes and spending. Gregory said not every American citizen pays income taxes and this leaves the remainder of the population to pick up the slack.
“I think everybody above the poverty line should pay income taxes,” Gregory said. “Everybody should get in the game.”
Gregory urged residents to call their respective elected officials to complain about the situation. Even if just 10 people call their official, he said it will get their attention.
“As Margaret Thatcher said, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money,” Gregory said. “I think that pretty much sums up our situation today.”
Connelly, who often speaks about free enterprise and has written a book called “Freedom Tide,” gave several examples about how the country’s freedom is what makes it great, and how government intrusion could take that away.
“It’s a travesty to spend other people’s money like this,” he said.
Connelly said just the fact so many people showed up demonstrated the importance of the issue.
“This is what America’s about,” he said. “Taking time from your lives to come out and make a statement.”
The protest held here was one of a dozen held around South Carolina on Wednesday, which was also Tax Day, the last day to file 2008 income-tax returns.
The largest rally in the state was on the State House grounds. About 3,000 attended that event, including Gov. Mark Sanford and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, both Republicans.
There were similar rallies in other states Wednesday.
Prominent Democrats were critical of the rallies, noting that lobbyist and political action groups sponsored some events in other states.
S.C. Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler was quoted in The State newspaper as saying rally attendees do not represent the larger sentiment among voters who elected Barack Obama president last year.
“They certainly are people who are the extreme right wing of the country,” she said to the Columbia newspaper. “The majority of Americans do not want the same failed economic policies that we had under a failed Republican administration.”
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (803) 416-8416