WASHINGTON -- How times change. For the past eight years, Lafayette Square, directly in front of the White House, was littered with liberal protesters. But with a Democrat in office, it’s the Republicans' turn now.
Roughly one hundred protesters gathered there Friday afternoon to launch their own conservative revolution with a modern-day Boston Tea Party.
"We have to do what the blacks did in the civil rights movement," said Randy Michaux, a protester from Virginia. "What we need is something like the Million Man March."
Judging by the crowd on Friday, that's a long way off. And as Michaux himself observed, "Small groups like this don't mean nothing,"
The idea for this protest came about after CNBC's Rick Santelli called for a new tea party during a rant on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange. Conservative groups took up the call and now protests like this have been popping up across the country; this one was organized by some of those groups, along with the American Spectator.
Though the event's planners described the tea party as a non-partisan event, the crowd appeared to be largely Republican, a mix of pin-stripe suit types in town for the Conservative Political Action Conference and people who'd come in for the day Maryland and Virginia. But while the protesters' dress codes may have differed, they were at least united by their hatred of government intervention.
The real Boston Tea Party actually came in response to a tax-cut -- the British government cut tea tariffs for the East India Company in the colonies, allowing them to lower their prices and undercut American merchants. That, however, was lost on the crowd Friday, which might not have shared its predecessor's views on taxation but had a similar revolutionary fervor. One of the stars of the show, conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, even greeted the crowd by saying "Hello fellow rebels!"
Malkin, a speaker at the event, was met in turn with cheers from protesters wielding signs like "Don't tread on me" and "Say no to Porkulus." Another, held by a little girl, read, "Don't tax what I haven’t earned."
One after another, the speakers attacked federal bailouts and increased taxation. Even Joe the Plumber was there, adding to the chorus of outrage.
"We're here for one reason and one reason only," event organizer J. Peter Freire, of the American Spectator, told the crowd. "The government has gotten too big."
Speaking to Salon after the protest, Freire said the tea parties had harnessed the genuine anger over government intervention. "I've gotten 4,000 emails through the website," he said. "These are people who have jobs and kids but they took time off to come today because this has really tapped into something."
Freire also said that the protesters had not assembled to criticize a particular party or politician because Democrats and Republicans alike were to blame for "fiscal recklessness."
Still, anyone on the scene couldn't help but notice the angry shouts of "socialist" and "Marxist" whenever Obama's name was mentioned. Indeed, many of the protesters had harsh words for the president.
"I don't believe he's my commander-in-chief," said Maryland resident Kathy Fuller. "People are afraid. I'm buying durable goods, because in five years there won't be companies to make them and inflation will be too high to buy them." Fuller added that the GOP is not "the party of 'no,'" and does have constructive ideas -- but, she said, the mainstream media keeps them from the public.
Judging by the protesters' suggestions, those solutions include cutting taxes and spending. As for Fuller, she says that if things continue to get worse she was prepared to do whatever's neccessary.
"Revolution, absolutely," said Fuller.