Nation's Largest "Tea Party" Protest Held Under St Louis Arch
March 9, 2009
Contributed by Doug Edelman
Dick Armey recently sent out a modest newsletter:
"Last week you may have seen or perhaps heard about CNBC's Rick Santelli and his report from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, ground zero for American capitalism and free market commerce, where he called for a "Taxpayer Tea Party" in the wake of efforts to enact a new, multi-billion dollar taxpayer funded housing bailout.
"If you are like me, you stood up and cheered.
"Rick was channeling what so many limited government advocates have been feeling now for a long time when it comes to out-of-control spending on the backs of hardworking U.S. taxpayers to reward the irresponsible and the corrupt: enough is enough!"
And with that, FreedomWorks (http://freedomworks.org) called for grass roots protests against the massive spending stimuli across the nation.
Bill Hennessy of the St. Louis area was inspired. He contacted local blogger and radio personality Dana Loesch (www.danaradio.com) and the two of them set off to organize the St Louis Tea Party at the Riverfront.
The theme: "Repeal the Stimulus Spending, Retire, or be Retired."
Utilizing the latest in technology - social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as a flurry of emails, word spread amongst the St Louis conservative community. Ms Loesch was even approached by a local TV station for an interview the night before the event.
This all began on Monday, February 23, for an event which took place a mere four days later on Friday, February 27. Organizers were hopeful for a turnout of 50 to 100 people, and were extremely encouraged when they had over 200 confirmed attendees on their Facebook event page the night before the event.
But even they were flabbergasted when the crowd grew to over 1,000 people; excited, energized, and motivated!
The majority of those attending took time off work - long lunches or days off - to attend. Many commented that they'd never participated in a protest demonstration before. Said one participant, "Usually, it's the Liberals who protest when the government doesn't do what they want. Conservatives go to work, take care of their families, and if they're really motivated, they email their Congressman. This time the stakes are so high we must resort to protests in the streets!"
Notable signs included one held by a college student stating she works 2 jobs to pay her own way through college, and another held by a youngster asking "Does this mean I can overspend my allowance?"
Drivers passing by honked their horns in support of the demonstrators.
After short remarks by several dignitaries, the crowd descended the levee to the Mississippi River, where they symbolically dumped tea into the river. A Coast Guard Patrol Boat stood watch a short way off shore, in all likelihood a safety precaution against anyone falling in the water. A few announcements were made to the effect that only loose tea should be thrown into the river, lest the Coast Guard cite the protesters for an environmental violation for throwing paper tea bags into the water!
The event galvanized the conservative population of St Louis, whether they were able to attend the event or not. Similar protests are planned in the future, with Tax Day, April 15, being floated as a possible protest date.
Whether this "Tea Party" movement has legs, or is simply a short-term venting of frustration by a decimated and impotent conservative constituency remains to be seen... but at this juncture, this is a force that the powers that be will have to reckon with.