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Anti-tax-and-spend group throws "tea party" at Capitol

Gideon Ross, 2, holds a sign at a "tea party" Friday at the state Capitol to protest increased taxes, budget deficits, the federal stimulus package and industry bailouts.
Gideon Ross, 2, holds a sign at a "tea party" Friday at the state Capitol to protest increased taxes, budget deficits, the federal stimulus package and industry bailouts.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

Conjuring the fighting spirit of the country's founders, a large group of defiant protesters gathered on the west steps of the Capitol rotunda Friday for a "tea party" modeled after the Boston Tea Party of more than 200 years ago.

Instead of tossing bales of tea overboard, however, this crowd seemed more interested in tossing President Obama and members of Congress out of power.

The event was part of what has become known as the Tea Party Movement, a series of rallies and demonstrations taking place in cities around the country to protest increased taxes, budget deficits, the recently passed federal stimulus package and trillion-dollar bailouts of the financial and auto industries.

Event organizer David Kirkham said he decided to put together one of the events locally because he viewed rampant deficit spending by the federal government as no different from the "intolerable acts" that led to the original Boston Tea Party.

"We are not spending our own money," Kirkham said after the rally. "We are taxing our children. Our children have no representation and we are taxing their dreams."

During the rally, he urged the president to not get the country in more economic trouble.

"Common sense tells us that if you find yourself in a hole you stop digging," Kirkham told protesters. "We are here to say to Mr. Obama, 'Put down that shovel!' "

Salt Lake County resident Greg Zenger said he was there because he was tired of federal, state and local taxes going up.

"Everybody is digging into our pockets deeper and deeper," Zenger said. "We are rushing headlong into socialism and it's just wrong. It's not what this country was founded on."

Recent federal bailouts of the failing financial and automobile industries are what brought South Jordan resident Janalee Tobias to the Capitol to protest.

"We're sick and tired of rewarding bad behavior," Tobias said.

Dozens of rally participants carried handmade signs reading, "Debt is killing our country" and "Put an end to borrow and spend." Several had small children in tow who were also carrying signs that read, "Stop stealing money from my piggy bank!"

Spanish Fork resident Keryn Ross had her four children with her.

"I want them to understand they can be part of the political process," Ross said. "I'm worried about my kids. I'm worried that this recklessness is all going to come down on them in 20 or 30 years."

Many in the crowd were there to prompt state lawmakers to pass HJR17, a joint resolution urging Congress to reject any future bailout legislation and stop spending money the federal government does not have.

The resolution is sponsored by Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, who spoke to rally participants and told them to contact their representatives expressing support for it.

"Let's get government out of our pockets," Frank said to cheers and applause.

A handful of other Republican representatives took turns briefly addressing the crowd. Rep. Christopher Herrod, R-Provo, commended them for showing up.

"Up here on the Hill we do not hear enough from you," Herrod said. "The silent majority better stop being silent or they might find they are no longer in the majority."

Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, said massive federal deficits were "enslaving our kids."

"Let's hold all of our congressmen and senators accountable for their votes to bail out these millionaires and billionaires," Sumsion said.

Rep. Michael Noel, R-Kanab said he was just as disappointed with the previous administration's sense of fiscal responsibility as he was with the current one.

"Ronald Reagan said the only way stop government growth was to stop feeding it," Noel said.

Not everyone in the rotunda, however, was sympathetic to the complaints of the protesters and lawmakers.

"I think it's funny that the people who screwed it all up are the first ones to complain about the solutions," Holladay resident Steve Ivie said.