An estimated 3,000 people attended today’s latest “Tea Party” protest at Fountain Square, this time commemorating Tax Day, and a CityBeat writer and photographer were there to capture the event in all of its sordid glory. [See the photo slideshow here.]
Cincinnati’s protest and subsequent march to City Hall, one of about 600 tea parties scheduled nationwide, ostensibly were held to protest President Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, and urge city officials not to accept any financial aid.
Judging from remarks made by speakers and signs held by protesters, however, everyone had different reasons for attending.
Although organizer Mike Wilson, a computer consultant from Springfield Township, railed against government spending and taxes as expected, speaker Greg Knox, who owns a machinery business in Franklin, wrapped up his remarks by stating the United States must “return to God.”
Meanwhile, dozens of signs warned against the evils of “socialism” and raised the specter of the old Soviet Union. The most elaborate featured the famous blue and red Obama image from last year’s “hope” campaign poster, but included a hammer and sickle symbol and the tag line, “Welcome to the U.S.S.A.”
Some signs fit the “Taxed Enough Already” theme.
One placard read, “Spread my work ethic, not my wealth”; another sign stated, “Normally, I’d be at work now but I figured … why bother?”
Many other signs were all over the board.
A young boy held a sign protesting some safety law prohibiting small motorcycles for children. Another placard read, “Protect our Constitution, borders, language and culture.” Yet another stated, “I’ll keep my money and guns, you keep your change.” For good measure, one man held a sign blaming labor unions for America's ills, while another sign read "Insurrection, anyone?"
Before the speakers began, the crowd listened to patriotic-themed Country music. At one point, anti-tax activist Christopher Finney could be seen walking around and trying to get people to sing along to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the U.S.A.
Referring to Rick Santelli, the CNBC commentator whose on-air rant against “losers” inspired people to hold tea parties, Wilson said, “He wanted to know why those of us who did the right thing and took care of our mortgages and paid our bills are bailing out the irresponsible ones.”
Possibly responding to criticism about the first rally on March 15, Wilson mentioned the non-partisan nature of the event several times, urged attendees not to get into altercations and didn’t allow Republican politicians to speak this time. Also, he blasted both major parties for having leaders who leave office and then become lobbyists.
“These aren’t Republican values, these aren't Democratic values, these aren’t Green Party values, these aren’t Libertarian values — these are American values,” Wilson said.
“Our movement has to mean something. It has to be here for the long haul,” he added. “Politicians work for us, and we will continue to build our movement until our voices are heard.”
The crowd wasn’t diverse: An informal survey of participants by this reporter and two onlookers spotted just one African-American woman and one Asian-American man in the throngs of people. There were plenty of smokers, though.
Unlike the March 15 rally, it appeared that no confrontations occurred at Fountain Square this time. As protesters marched to City Hall, though, bystanders jeered them.
A group of African-American teen-agers at Seventh and Vine chanted Barack Obama’s name as the group strolled by, prompting a white, red-haired marcher in his 20s and a business suit to reply, “He’s the Anti-Christ.”
A block later, an elderly, grey-haired black woman shouted at the marchers, “You all don’t even live here!”
As another man on Garfield Place watched the crowd walk by, he said, “I didn’t see any of these people when the last president was fucking shit up for eight years.”
One sign carried by a protester echoed the religious theme. It read, “If 10 percent is good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Uncle Sam.”
Yes, but Jesus never had to build highways, buy missiles and fight two wars.