On tax day, thousands of Tea Party protesters packed Daley Plaza shouting anti-government slogans and toting signs with phrases such as “tax is theft” and “taxes kill jobs.” Some even showed up in costume—one woman dressed as “Wonder Woman”—and several children in the crowd took part. One carried a sign that read: “Leave my piggy bank alone.”
The new political movement, which had rallies throughout the country to speak out against the largesse of the federal government, stood chanting, cheering and shouting in the plaza at 55 W. Randolph St. for several hours on April 15, but the only things that seemed to unite the group was dislike of President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush and a distrust of the federal government.
Their outrage was shared, but the specific issues that angered them varied from government spending, Wall Street bailouts and foreign war to health care reform, women’s reproductive rights and gay rights.
“The biggest thing [I’m here for] is the health care reform,” said Barb Higgins, a physical therapist from Evergreen Park. “I really believe that it’s unconstitutional and it’s going to hurt a lot of people.” Higgins, who works with many geriatric patients, said she is worried they will not be priorities in the reform.
The Tea Party, a grassroots movement that has been around for decades, was made recognizable in the public eye when Obama took office. Members are usually non-partisan and base their beliefs on the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
Several current members or people who identify with the Tea Party originally recognized themselves as Democrats or Republicans, but chose to be Independent in light of the government’s recent activities.
“I’ve felt the effects of [changes in government policy] in my life, and I’m here to speak out against it,” said Lauren Skippers, a 26-year-old waitress from Chicago. “I was a registered Republican, but I no longer identify with that party because they strayed so far from what this country was founded on.”
The Tea Party Patriots of Chicago’s Web site states they welcome all conservatives, libertarians, centrists, Republicans, Democrats and Independents who stand for freedom and individual rights.
One man held a sign that read “Arrest Bush,” while he narrowly avoided being arrested himself. Others held signs that read “LOL” with the infamous Obama “O” used in his campaign in place.
Some people at the rally were for socialism but the majority were for capitalism. However, both sides mostly agreed change must
“It’s turning into a socialist society rather than a capitalist society,” Higgins said.
Another rally member, David Harrell, attended on behalf of Henry George School, a nonprofit school that teaches free market social justice perspective.
“I’m here with the group, but I would have come anyway because I’m an American and I’m pro-freedom,” said Harrell, a former Columbia student who graduated in 1997. “I think we should bring government down to the level of the people again. We also need to come home from all these foreign wars and get out of all these countries and stop trying to police the world.”
The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have always been a controversial subject and have been a key factor in dividing political opinions, but many people at the rally felt the lengthy wars were enough.
“Our living conditions in Iraq are horrible,” said Pete Garay, 32, who served in Iraq twice. “I’m against Obama’s beliefs, but I like what’s going on here, a lot of people came up to me and thanked me.”
All other objections aside, some protestors did take the time to talk about being overtaxed.
“We are here because we are sick and tired of being taxed to death,” said Judi Anderson, 53, of Oak Forest, Ill. “We don’t mind paying taxes; we would just like some accountability for the money going to Washington, D.C., and Springfield, Ill.”
Thousands of protests were held throughout the country on April 15, with the largest held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.