April 16th, 2011 | by EVAN SERNOFFSKY News | Posted In: Politics

Tea Party Rallies at Pioneer Courthouse Square

Tea Party Protester
About 300 supporters of the Oregon tea party movement held their annual tax day rally in downtown Portland to celebrate their new influence in national politics.

Meantime, about 30 opponents gathered in a counter-demonstration to the Friday evening rally in Pioneer Courthouse Square in which tea partiers had showed up to rock out to live music and hear guest speakers like conservative radio host Victoria Taft.

“We’re asking our elected officials to mind their money. We don’t get into a lot of social issues,” said 38-year-old Aaron Stevens, a volunteer coordinator for the tea party event. "We're trying to bring attention to our cause and this is a great place for people to come and meet like-minded folk."

“We need to deal with entitlement programs,” said Diane Schendel, member of conservative groups, Oregon 9-12 Project and Americans for Prosperity. “We need to get the government the hell out of the way. There are too many regulations and there are too many taxes.”

Though the tea party is credited with helping conservatives make great gains in the 2010 congressional elections, its impact to date in Oregon has been much less.

Oregon tea partiers huddled under umbrellas as rain pounded down throughout the evening. At 6:30 pm when the event officially got under way, the crowd stood and sang the national anthem led by former Miss Oregon Heidi Rickey-Wiesner

Not all who showed up however, were in support. A crowd of about 30 demonstrators gathered at the top of the steps leading down to the square. They carried anti-tea party signs and blew air horns during the national anthem.

One sign read “Tea Party Go Home." Another read “Tea Party No Bright Ideas From Dimwits.” Some tea party members grew furious and confronted the counter-demonstrators.

“You guys are Nazis,” yelled one irate tea party supporter, prompting one of the tea party opponents to  repeatedly scream “Fascist!” Police formed a barricade with bikes to keep the groups separate.

Eventually, calm retutned and attention returned to the stage.

“When liberals don’t like something they try to ban it,” Taft said from the stage. “You know what conservatives do when they don’t like something? They change it!” The crowd erupted into a roar and supporters cheered wildly.

By 8:30 pm the rally was over. Soaked from head to toe, they trudged back to their cars to head home.  

“We are a tolerant party,” said Stevens. “You will not see anybody with anti-gay or Nazi signs here. We are about fiscal responsibility.”

A very different rally is happening at the square today. Check back later for a report on that demonstration in support of unions.
 
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