About 40 people lined Beeline Highway by the Gila County complex Wednesday at a Tea Party to protest government spending amidst cold lashing winds and a cacophony of people honking their car horns in apparent support.
Protesters carried signs that read, “Don’t lie, cheat or steal. Congress hates competition,” and “Taxpayers are not your ATM.”
The total number of participants was difficult to estimate because numerous people rotated in and out all day.
Some who gathered spoke in anger-tinged voices while others calmly predicted the day heralded the start of a larger movement.
“It takes a while for the average American to get tea’d off,” said James Hinton. “I think it’s just the beginning. They’re not listening,” he said of elected representatives.
“I believe in the U.S. Constitution and this American flag that’s on my shoulder and not changing it for some socialism ideas,” said one gentleman who declined to give his name because he said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano might put it on a list.
He was referring to a recent report exploring a potential rise in right-wing extremism due to the historic confluence of the nation’s first black president and a severe economic downturn. The report classifies movements that reject federal authority in favor of state authority as potentially right-wing extremist, among other social groups and ideas that conservatives typically identify with.
Napolitano has since released a statement defending the report as an important strategy in monitoring and defeating homegrown terrorism.
DHS, before Napolitano’s tenure, also examined possible left-wing extremism.
However, the controversial report’s release at the precise moment of sprouting Tea Parties, with some protesters calling for a revolution, has created fire.
Many at Payson’s event said they had never protested before.
Three hundred Tea Parties reportedly sprouted nationwide on Wednesday, according to Fox News, which offered continuous coverage of the grass roots movement. The event coincided with the deadline to file federal income taxes.
The Web site fivethirtyeight .com rifled through media reports to estimate over 260,000 attendees nationwide, which doesn’t include many small towns with non-daily newspapers like Payson.
According to the site, 5,000 attended rallies in Phoenix, which would make it one of the largest showings in the country by the site’s count.
“I want to show my support for the millions (in the) silent majority that will not brave the wind and the cold for whatever reason,” said Shirley Dye. She decried the “humongous” amount of money that the government is spending to stimulate the economy and other money wasted in earmarks.
Dye acknowledged that some stimulus money is benefiting Rim Country, namely through $10.5 million to help build the Blue Ridge water pipeline and $8.6 million to widen a deadly stretch of Highway 87 between Payson and Pine.
However, Dye protested completing those projects at the expense of the nation.
Some protesters said they thought the Democrats were ruining the country, or denounced what they said was the country’s path to socialism.
Other protesters blamed both parties equally. The man who declined to give his name said both Obama and former President George Bush spent money like “drunken sailors.” He and his wife carried signs with encircled words like “bailout,” “big government” and “taxes,” with lines through them.
The official Tea Party movement calls itself non-partisan.
“A broad coalition of Americans representing every race and political party are now ready to organize and take peaceful political steps to form a peaceful revolution to address this national crisis,” read a What It Means statement distributed at Payson’s tea party.
The statement listed “high taxes, runaway spending and trillions in generational debt,” as well as gun rights and free speech, among other things, as its primary issues.
More events are planned, according to the Arizona Tea Party Web site.
On July 4, a Repeal the Pork, Learn the Constitution event will take place, as well as subsequent protests in September and November, although the themes for those events have not yet been announced.