Citizens tea'd off on tax day


Groups from across the political spectrum lined Park Square in Pittsfield Wednesday to take part in a tax day protest modeled after the Boston Tea Party. The protest was organized by the Berkshire Conservatives and the Berkshire County Republican Association.

Protesters held signs, American flags and handed out tea bags while scores of passing drivers honked in response. They said they came together to speak out against federal bailouts and the stimulus package, as well as a lack of reform and a proposed 19-cent gas tax increase in Massachusetts.

"It's not tolerable and it's not feasible," said Jim Bronson, of Berkshire Conservatives. "I think people understand that and I think people have had enough."

The protests were promoted nationally by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington and led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas.

Organizers said the movement developed organically through online social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and through exposure on Fox News.

In Boston, a few hundred protesters gathered on the Boston Common — a short distance from the original Tea Party — some dressed in Revolutionary garb and carrying signs that said "Barney Frank, Bernie Madoff: And the Difference Is?" and "D.C.: District of Communism."

Other protesters also took direct aim at President Obama. One sign in the crowd in Madison, Wis., compared him to the anti-Christ. At a rally in Montgomery, Ala., where Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" blared from loudspeakers, Jim Adams, of Selma, carried a sign that showed the president with Hitler-style hair and mustache and said, "Sieg Heil Herr Obama."

Meanwhile, in Washington, President Obama declared on that he aims to ease the dread of deadline day with "a simpler tax code that rewards work and the pursuit of the American dream."

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"For too long, we've seen taxes used as a wedge to scare people into supporting policies that increased the burden on working people instead of helping them live their dreams," Obama said. "That has to change, and that's the work that we've begun."

While organizers of the protest insisted it was a nonpartisan effort, it has been seized on by many prominent Republicans who view it as a promising way for the party to reclaim its momentum.

"We are trying to say that there is room for more than one political party in Massachusetts, that conservatism is not dead," Bronson said of the Park Square protest.

But a mix of Republicans, independents and Democrats joined the ranks of those upset with the government as well.

Dick and Kathy Piretti, Democrats from Lenox, said they felt government spending was out of hand and they had to speak out against it.

"People think it's a bunch of right-wing nuts, but it's not," said Kathy Piretti. "It's about ordinary people."

Peter Giftos, president of the Berkshire County Republican Association, said he has been inundated with dozens of messages of people of all different political beliefs this week.

"People are not only angry, but scared," said Giftos. "The politicians, in Washington and Boston, are scaring them. They're sick and tired of being taxed out of their home and they're sick and tired that their children and their grandchildren are going to be paying for it for years to come They're just fed up."


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