As conservative Tea Partiers protested Tax Day on highway overpasses Thursday, some drivers honked and danced in support, while others flipped them the bird, yelling obscenities out of car windows.
Around 20 tea partiers gathered on the Southwest Broadway overpass on Interstate 405 were coached to keep the mood happy and upbeat. “You might be the first Tea Partier they've ever encountered,” said organizer Tom Cox.
They certainly caught some attention. The protesters had barely unrolled their signs to their highway audience when a crash was heard directly beneath, as a car rear-ended another on I-405.
Some of the tea party signs read “Stop tyranny and liberal socialism” and “No Obama-unism.” Spectators reacted passionately, and the doorstep of Portland State University was an odd environment for the conservative movement.
“Palin's an idiot,” said a cyclist as he pedals by.
“I don't see any Palin signs,” organizer Kristina Ribali yells back at him.
“They say we're angry. We're not angry,” says Ribali, waving a bright pink sign that read “We love liberty.”
(Her assertion that they're not angry isn't helped by death threats like these
. And the credibility of the movement is questionable when it aligns itself with members like these
Of late, there have been plans in Oregon to infiltrate
the Tea Party movement. The Beaverton School District has reportedly suspended
the teacher instigating those plans on the internet.
The only ones crashing this party were some extremely aggressive and foul-mouthed panhandlers.
“I will ruin your party. I swear to god I'm good at that,” said one woman.
The Tea Partiers focused on telling drivers to “love freedom” and chatting about the issues amongst themselves.
“Most taxes, if not all taxes, are unconstitutional. Tax money should be given back to the people so they can be in control of their own lives,” says Jordan Hewitt, a student.
Political opinion varied within the crowd, but the Tea Partiers all agreed on cutting spending and limiting government. They also agreed bank bailouts and major social programs like “Obama-care” are evil.
“We have quadrupled our debt. We have enslaved two generations now for a debt that's not theirs. Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security is the world's biggest Ponzi scheme. I've had enough. My kids are not your ATM,” says Ribali.
Tim Mergen confronted the Tea Partiers, saying he supports social programs. He said the movement's tactics are not effective or sustainable over time.
“There's a lot of us
,” Mergen says. “It just seems like it's a real mob mentality, but without really the will to do anything.”
Tea Partiers, on the other hand, said they believe they're making a difference.
“A lot of people have not been taught, I guess, what I call American values. I don't see it taught in schools or universities. I think the tea party has gone a long way to bring conservative values back,” said Jeremy Stapp from Seattle. “I think the biggest conservative value is just limited government. We basically just want to be left alone.”