POLITICS
05/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Every Tea Party Had Its Own Brew, Reports HuffPosers

Over 2,500 HuffPost citizen journalists have helped provide comprehensive coverage of the Tax Day Tea Party protests. Click here for the latest photos and video.To join our citizen reporting team, sign-up here.

Before Tax Day, twenty-five hundred HuffPost citizen journalists signed up to report on the anti-tax tea parties that were held on April 15. Since then, HuffPost has received nearly two thousand photographs, dozens of videos, and hundreds of written dispatches. You can find many of these reports on our Tea Party Big News page.

Not every tea party focused on the same political issues and, depending on where the party was held, the tenor differed substantially.

In Duncan, Oklahoma, home of Halliburton Corporation, HuffPost citizen reporter Cherirae Wright describes a relatively small gathering of like minded individuals:

It was a breezy, overcast day with temperatures in the high 60's. Party attendees struggled with winds as they held their signs and banners toward on-coming traffic. Protesters exchanged greetings with people driving by, horns honked and people cheered.

There were about 100 people in attendance. There were no people of color but there was one protester dressed like Abraham Lincoln[...] A pickup truck with portable speakers played country and western music, motorcycles were adorned with protest flags, political cartoons were displayed on a parked pickup truck and bumper stickers with "McCain", "NRA" and "Gun Owners of America" were seen on many vehicles. The mood was festive and there were no scheduled speeches.

Duncan is recognized as being the birthplace of Halliburton Corporation and the city once referred to itself as "The Buckle on the Oil Belt." It is a very conservative, Christian, and predominately white community. As of the 2006 census, 83.1% of the population was Caucasian, 4% Black, 6.7% Native American and 1.5% Latino.

High expectations and the presence of national media made the event in Washington, DC considerably more tense than most. Alexandra Villanueva describes a frustrated crowd that was eventually broken up by police for security reasons:

The atmosphere by the White House during the protest was one of fear and indignation, but also cheerful despite the rainy weather. The roughly 500 people in attendance were split between the main crowd in Lafayette Park and a smaller group in front of the White House itself. Though the purpose of the event was to protest the current economic system and the perceived trend towards socialism in the government, issues from all over the board were on display.

Some questioned the President's American citizenship with signs and shouting at the White House; others carried signs proclaiming the Employee Free Choice Act unconstitutional. The main issue that brought people from across the nation to the seat of power, however, was the economy.

"It's time we just let the system work," Todd, who had come to the event from Seattle, WA, said. (He would not provide his last name.) "We're moving too fast, not thinking things through. This is not the way the system was created to run, and it's not the way it should head in the future." When asked about the protests occurring across the country, he said, "This is the start of a movement. The more people who come out [against the current direction of the economy], the more people will know it's okay to come out."

He was not the only person from the West Coast to come for the protest in DC rather than attending one closer to home - Abraham Mudrick from Silverton, OR, came with a sign that read "Fascism...is the Merger of the State and Corporate Power. - Benito Mussolini" and "The Fed Reserve: Officially Pulling the Strings Since 1914," stylized as the logo from The Godfather. "I came all the way down to help this movement to be heard, and to tell the federal government to stop out-of-control spending," he said. "This movement needs to break the chains of 'taxation without representation,'" which he describes as "elected officials not doing what the American people want. We didn't want the Bush bailout, and the majority of people who elected Obama did not want the stimulus package. There's a disconnect here - our representatives aren't representing us. Future hyperinflation is a hidden form of taxation without representation."

The protest, although mostly peaceful, was broken up by a minor clash with counter-protesters, led by Alex Lawson, a DC native. "I paid $200 for five signs at Kinko's, and three of them were destroyed by the crowd," he said. He and his unaffiliated group had gathered on their lunch break and dressed as billionaires and gone down to the protest at Lafayette Park. They managed to get close to the front of the small stage, waving their signs, which were blocked by the Tea Party protesters. There was some pushing and shoving of the counter-protesters, and the signs were taken out of their hands. Lawson feared for the safety of his small group, and tried to de-escalate the incident. After one of the organizers shouted at those who had taken the signs, saying that the counter-protesters could be there, too, Lawson's group had one sign returned to them, and moved to the back. His group was interviewed by a documentary filmmaker on-scene, where he was asked by someone in the crowd, "When was the last time you got your ass kicked?"

"The vein of that kind of anger was permeated throughout the protest," Lawson said. "It was unfocused, raw rage." He also said "the organizers were professional. They handled the crowd well." Lawson and his group went down to the protest because "the tax burden has shifted onto the middle class. I was offended by the fact that people thought they were taking the fall now as opposed to the past eight years. That's why I went out in the rain."

At about 2:15 PM, an item was flung over the White House fence onto the lawn, and the protest had to be broken up for about thirty minutes while the Secret Service investigated. The item turned out to be a box of tea bags.

In Stuart, FL, Tino Fiumara reported on a rowdy crowd with no single issue to unite them, but instead riled up about a laundry list of different hot button political issues:

Placards, banners and posters were present in all shapes, sizes and messages. Everyone came with a different slogan, addressing issues from Congressional term limits to flat taxes to less spending, but it was clear that they all wanted to be heard. Anyone willing to better formulate their argument was given time on the local channel 12 news or with the random guy who had a PA set up on top of his work truck and was offering a microphone to anyone who wanted to talk.

As people paraded up and down the median of Highway 1 with their flags and signs, they were supported by non-stop horns that blared from the post-work traffic. Some of the passing cars had as much to say as the asphalt bound demonstrators. A lady with an American flag flying out of the top of her Toyota SUV yelled from the comfort of her front seat, "Fire all of the idiots!" before the light changed and she drove through. Later on at the same intersection man in mineral blue PT Cruiser came through making a left hand turn and yelled, "You lost the election, get over it, As*%#les!" and proceeded to speed away.

Though for all of the energy from social unrest that filled the air, there were a few who were calm on this over 80-degree afternoon. A 6-year-old by the name of Philip was selling Lemonade. He wore a t-shirt that said, "No More Zer000,000,000,000s". His parent's filled in that all of the money that was being raised by the sales today was being sent right to Congress. As people lined up to support Philip and combat the late day heat Philip's father would say to them, "That's the most expensive cup of lemonade you're ever going to buy."

One of the most focused and non-partisan tea parties was held in Denver, CO reports Jeannine Crook:

The gavel slammed down in the Colorado Legislature today, as seven thousand people gathered on the front steps of the state capital for the Denver Tea Party tax protest. The crowd's cheers were so loud that the legislature couldn't continue until the windows were closed. Ironically the legislators were discussing the 2009-2010 state budget shortfalls.

The bi-partisan protestors ranged from gray haired seniors to punk rockers, with lots of young parents pushing strollers in the mix. People started gathering as early as 7 am for the noon event, carrying a collection of homemade signs blasting the cost of the stimulus package, the bailouts, and the assault on the US Constitution and personal liberties.

Toddler Solana Hernandez of Morrison, CO, riding in a carrier on her father's back, captured the spirit of the event with her sign proclaiming "Still in Pampers, Already in Debt."

Jon Caldera, founder of the Independence Institute, earned the loudest cheers by sharing his dream that "one day what the government does for one person, it does for all, not just the politically connected." Frequently the throngs started chanting "Where is Ritter?" calling out the state's governor, a democrat, who had left Denver for the safety of Colorado Springs, rather than facing the huge, demanding audience.

"Any government big enough to promise everything is big enough to take everything away," US Rep Mike Coffman quoted Thomas Jefferson to the roaring crowd. "It's time to make the hard choices to achieve a balanced budget."

Some State Reps took the opportunity to work the crowd, appreciating the chance to talk to voters who shared their goal of cutting expenses instead of raising taxes. Rep. Cindy Acree suggested that everyone ask all his or her elected officials one question - "Have you ever read the Constitution?"

Many there were protesting for the first time, like Melissa P of Parker, CO, who got the day off by accident. "It's my civic duty to be here. If I'm at home and quiet, no one knows I disagree with what's going on." Her friend, Laura B. of Westminster, agreed, "especially since the government is trying to quickly take away all our freedoms."
Rep. Cory Gardner summed it up best by proclaiming, "Today on the house floor, they heard our voices. This is our country."

There is some debate over who inspired Wednesday's demonstrations, with many people citing Ron Paul and the grassroots network he build during his 2008 Presidential Campaign. Giving weight to the role Ron Paul supporters played in the tea party phenomenon, Dave Pridgeo reports that Ron Paul supporters had the largest presence at the two tea parties in Harford County Maryland:

I attended two Tea Parties held in Harford County, located in the northeast portion of Maryland. Harford has a population of 230,000. State Police estimated the Bel Air crowd at 800 to 1,000 participants. Havre De Grace had around 300 participants. The weather here was cold and it was raining the entire day.

Ron Paul's group Campaign for Liberty was the only political organization to have an information tent at either event. Also they were the only organization working the crowds with literature.

At both events local citizens were the main organizers who didn't seem to have any connections to the main political parties. The organizer for the Bel Air Tea Party Anthony Passaro lost a son in Iraq. Several local state delegates were speakers. As both organizers were open to speaking to me I got a chance to review the invited speakers and only Republican delegates chose to attend.

The contents of the speeches reflected mostly a desire for smaller government and a balanced budget. The Constitution was mentioned on numerous occasions. The main object of the wrath of the speeches and the crowd appeared to be Congress. At Bel Air in particular the speeches were very hard to hear due to all the honking of horns as the rally was on Main Street in downtown. Cars being worked by sign wavers, asking for approval, seemed to readily pitch in with their horns.

All signage was hand made and reflected personal messages and touches. The crowd was very varied in terms of age, from folks in their 80's to small children.

And at a number of locations, demonstrations turned angry and sometimes violent when anti-tax protesters clashed with counter-protesters. True Tourtillott reports that this was the case in San Jose, CA:

The event was held at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose, right at the intersection of downtowns busiest streets. The event ran from 5-7. The event began at five because quite frankly, most people upset about excess taxation and reckless Government spending have jobs. It was chilly and windy and despite starting at the peak of south bay traffic I'd guess 700-1000 people came out. Not a bad turnout given the location and time of day.

Regarding counter-protests; there were a couple of oddballs driving by who shouted obscenities at the tea party demonstrators, but the gesture was not returned. In fact the people were mostly laughed at and a few people replied with, "We respect your right to free speech!"

There was a small group of "Immigrant Rights" types there as well. The San Jose Mercury said "40 of them rushed the stage and were blocked by SJPD riot-police." Not exactly true. In reality it was 15-20 pimply-faced kids and a few hipsters who wanted to wave signs, make a little noise and say their peace. They had neither the numbers nor the stomach for any real confrontation, and I don't think that was their aim at all. They made a little racket and moved on without incident.

Everyone was well behaved and there wasn't the slightest hint of any kind of hate[...] This was not partisan and it was not Republican. It was a broad mix of Americans joining together to peacefully voice their displeasure with the State of our Union, excessive punitive taxation, reckless spending and the erosion of liberty.