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Tea party rallies held across state to protest tax system


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SALT LAKE CITY -- This year's tax deadline is more than a day to settle up with the government. It's also prompted hundreds of demonstrations, labeled as "tea parties," and Utah is no exception.

TEA: Taxed Enough Already! It's one reason for Wednesday's Tax Day tea party, but the crowd that gathered in Salt Lake City has more reasons to protest.

Salt Lake City 'Tea Party'

The Salt Lake protest began just after noon on Wednesday at the Federal Building Plaza. Organizers say it was just like the Boston Tea Party more than 235 years ago.

The group protested taxes, but they were upset with the Obama administration.

"It's everything. I don't agree with any of his (President Obama's) policies. I think he's turning our country socialistic," said protester Sue Pollard.

Protester Jim Ayres said, "I don't run my business on a deficit. I don't run my household on a deficit. Why should the government be running in a deficit? It's not right."

Another protester said, "I have children. I am concerned about their futures with the tax burden that's going to be imposed on them, and they have no say about it."

Several hundred people carried signs that expressed their anger toward politicians and federal debt, as well as their general frustration with government. They chanted scathing attacks against President Obama, even Gov. Jon Huntsman: Obama for creating the stimulus; Huntsman for accepting it.

Protester Chris Colgrove said, "When you start using the economy to push your political agenda, that's when I really start to get worried. When we start to talk about doubling a federal budget that already has a deficit, now I've gotta be honest, I'm much more concerned now than I was six months ago."

Politicians join protesters

Conservative politicians, like newly-elected Rep. Jason Chaffetz, gobbled up the chance to chime in during Wednesday's rallies.

"My fundamental job is to represent Utah to Washington not Washington to Utah. Too many people have forgotten that," Chaffetz said.

In an open letter to all Utahns, Sen. Orrin Hatch said, "During the last few months, citizens across Utah and America have spent time to attend ‘tea parties' to demonstrate their frustration with increasing taxes and federal spending. ... As taxpayers are rushing to meet the deadline of tax day, demonstrations are continuing today and I want Utahns to know that I share their outrage over the direction the country is headed." [Click here to read Hatch's entire letter]

Tea party-goers were mostly a conservative Republican group, but a few Democrats have expressed concern over government spending too.

The political dynamic was inescapable. Anti-Obama signs that read "Our New King George" followed the tea party theme.

Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett were attacked as too liberal, while potential Bennett opponent Mark Shurtleff spoke to call for something different.

Tea Parties may signal change in the Republican Party

Tax day tea parties are happening in cities across the country. Organizers are expecting 400 to 700 rallies on the streets and online.

Some strategists say this may be the beginning of a new, energized Republican Party. "Now you've got conservatives tweeting to one another on Twitter. ... I think there has to be a new Republican Party. The Republican Party we've seen over the last few years hasn't done very well," said Republican strategist Keith Appell.

Liberals, however, criticize the apparent grassroots movement. They say the movement isn't grassroots at all, that it came from old Republican Party bosses.

The Utah Democratic Party issued a statement that says, in part: "As a party with a record of fiscal responsibility, Democrats understand the anxiety people are feeling over ballooning deficits. In January 2001 when Bill Clinton left office, it was projected that by now our national debt would be paid off. Instead, Republicans decided to cut taxes for those with top annual incomes and now we are facing record debt." [Click here to read Holland's entire statement]

According to Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland, Bishop and Chaffetz's vote against a tax cut for working Utah families was a real slap in the face. "Over the past eight years the average working family has seen their income decline by about $2,000 and their health care costs mushroom. Meanwhile the wealthiest one percent of Americans saw their income literally explode and their taxes cut."

Chairman Holland concludes, "Utah deserves representation that will stand up for working families when they need it most. By voting against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Bishop and Chaffetz both failed us."

Anti-tax tea parties in Utah

The Salt Lake Tea Party was just one of several in Utah Wednesday. There are more planned for Wednesday evening:

  • Logan: 4 p.m., 241 N. Main Street, south of City Hall
  • Provo: 5 p.m., Old Utah County Courthouse, corner of University and Center
  • St. George: 5 p.m., Vernon Worthen Park
  • Richfield: 5:30 p.m., City Park, 300 N. Main Street.

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Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and Randall Jeppesen.

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