From the Buffalo Evening News:
Revolutionary War-era garb and historical flags evoke spirit of Boston Tea Party as tea-themed rally at Niagara Square … one of hundreds nationwide … protests state and federal taxes on the day they’re due.
Derek Gee / Buffalo News
Updated: 04/16/09 09:14 AM
Decrying government spending as excessive, protesters make voices heard
Tax-protest tea party has extra edge for New Yorkers
By Stephen T. Watson
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
They came dressed in Revolutionary War-era garb, waving American flags or bearing signs that read “I Am Not Your ATM” and “Revolt Against $ocialism.”
The several hundred protesters who flocked Wednesday afternoon to the Tax Day tea party in Niagara Square also carried enough tea bags to make Thomas Lipton smile.
Protesters went to the rally in Buffalo, and hundreds like it across the country, to call for an end to what they consider excessive government spending and overly permissive liberal policies.
“We aren’t nobodies. We’re Americans, and we have a voice,” Laurie Kostrzewski, one organizer, said to the crowd.
The coordinated tea parties Wednesday, the day federal income tax returns were due, protested high state and federal taxes in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Participants here and elsewhere argued for greater citizen involvement in politics and for the passage of reform measures such as term limits for elected officials.
“We must force our government to remember that they work for us,” said Chris Bossert, one of the men wearing Colonial garb.
The 70-minute rally at the base of the McKinley Monument, across the street from City Hall, drew office workers, citizen activists and parents with children in tow.
Organizers and anyone from the crowd who wanted a turn at the microphone railed against career politicians but directed particular ire at President Obama and Gov. David A. Paterson.
Attendees said they favor spending on the military, police, roads and other critical infrastructure, but social welfare programs such as Social Security and Medicaid had few fans.
“I’m here to try to stop wasteful spending,” said John Cherri, who also was dressed in a tri-cornered hat and other late-18th century garb.
The costly government-funded bailouts of the financial services and automotive industries also came under fire at the rally.
Many in attendance said government officials are too quick to think the solution to any problem — economic or social — is raising taxes and boosting public spending.
“It’s not the government’s place to bail people out,” Gary Spengler, a corrections officer and Democrat from Silver Creek, said in an interview.
Organizers said that they’re realistic and that they don’t have high hopes for change to come soon. But they argued that people need to get involved in political organizing and support the right kind of candidates.
Whenever a speaker would mention “politicians,” members of the crowd would yell “Get ’em out of there” and “Term limits.”
“I think it’s time people stopped complaining and take action for the things they believe in,” Dotty Kassler, a teacher from the Town of Tonawanda who isn’t registered with a party, said in an interview. She held a sign stating “Born Free/Taxed to Death” that had two small American flags taped to it.
The topics of freedom, patriotism and religion also came up repeatedly at the rally. The event began with a prayer since, as organizer Allen Coniglio put it, “You can always tell the good guys — they say prayers.”
Attendees sang parts of “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance — the version including “under God,” Kostrzewski emphasized— before the speeches.
“This is power of the people. We’re seeing it today,” said Coniglio, a member of the Reform-NYS group that sponsored the rally here.
Also on Wednesday afternoon, the liberal-leaning Coalition for Economic Justice held a downtown rally of its own.
This gathering was meant to boost support for state legislation that would reform the process through which local industrial development agencies give tax breaks to businesses.
The bill’s provisions include requirements that the companies pay prevailing wages, that Industrial Development Agency- boosted projects must create new jobs and prove that the project couldn’t be carried out without the tax breaks.
“We want to fix that broken system,” said Allison K. Duwe, director of the coalition and organizer of the rally, which drew about 40 people to the Washington Street Post Office.
Opponents of the legislation say that it would place onerous burdens on companies receiving IDA incentives and harm economic-development efforts upstate.