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Tea'd Off on Tax Day

By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
          The Albuquerque Tea Party drew at least several thousand people Thursday to line Menaul Boulevard in the latest citizen demonstration against government taxes and spending.

Thousands of people line Menual NE in Albuquerque from San Pedro to Wyoming on Thursday during a tea party rally to protest government spending on the tax day filing deadline.

A passing driver gives a thumbs-up sign Thursday to demonstrators protesting government spending during an Albuquerque tea party rally along Menaul Boulevard.

Elizabeth Louie and her 8-year-old daughter, Amela, carry tax day protest signs Thursday during the tea party rally in Albuquerque. (Photos by Jim Thompson/Journal)

    It was the second straight year the fledgling citizens group drew large numbers to an April 15 tax day protest, and people in the crowd were quick to talk about the strength of their numbers.
        "I think it's a way to gauge the sentiment of the public," said Rick Newton, an Albuquerque retiree attending the Albuquerque rally.
        Albuquerque Tea Party organizers had volunteers who handed out stickers to try to estimate attendance. The group's estimate Thursday night was over 9,000, said Albuquerque Tea Party organizer Tina Carson. Journal staffers estimated the number of Albuquerque demonstrators at about 4,000.
        People spread themselves along Menaul NE between San Pedro and Wyoming on Thursday evening, holding signs up for motorists who passed through the busy corridor during rush-hour traffic.
        The signs were mostly dedicated to slogans against federal government spending, deficits, the President Barack Obama-supported federal health care legislation and denouncements of socialism.
        One sign, apparently referring to Obama's theme of change in the 2008 presidential campaign, read: "We'll keep our Bibles and guns, you keep the Change."
        Another sign, criticizing the government for spending too much on health care and other social programs for low-income citizens, said: "It's not a right if someone else has to pay."
        The Albuquerque rally was just one of many held by tea party groups across the nation on Thursday. In New Mexico, other rallies were held in Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Clovis, Roswell, Ruidoso and Silver City.
        Albuquerque Tea Party supporters said they continue to be fired up about the tea party movement because of concerns — and anger — they have about America's political direction. Obama and Congress were the big targets for demonstrators, with relatively few pointing toward state politicians as the problem in signs and slogans.
        Lori Stribling, a mother of six attending the Albuquerque rally, was among those singling out Obama.
        "He's killing small business. He's killing our drive to work. He's killing the American way," Stribling said.
        While the general message from most protesters had not changed over the past year — that government should tax less and spend more responsibly — some protesters appeared more sensitive about their image, which they say is inaccurately portrayed by the media.
        "The accusation from the other side that we're a bunch of redneck racists is just bogus," Newton said.
        Newton said the principles of frugal government spending and smaller government have nothing to do with race.
        A sign hanging from a passing car said: "I'm racist against white liberals."
        Some Albuquerque Tea Party supporters advertised their status as registered Democrats, saying it reinforced the claims of most local tea party groups that partisanship is not part of their message or purpose.
        Maxine Stephenson, a retired Albuquerque teacher, said she is upset that moderate Democrats have been pushed aside so that more liberal Democrats could "stick their nose in" people's lives.
        "The left wing of the party has taken over and left the rest of us behind," Stephenson said.
        In Washington D.C., where several thousand protesters rallied in the shadow of the Ronald Reagan Building on Thursday, no members of the Republican congressional leadership spoke.
        A sign in Washington seemed to reflect the sentiment of many demonstrators frustrated by government: "Re-elect No One."
        Some members of New Mexico's congressional delegation sent out information in preparation for tax day, saying most New Mexicans received a tax cut due to the efforts of Congress in 2009.
        The office of Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., sent media a report from Citizens for Tax Justice, a Washington, D.C., think tank, showing that residents in the state received, on average, a little more than $1,000 in tax breaks.
        A statement from the office of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said, "Because of the tax cuts we enacted last year, New Mexicans are taking home more of their hard-earned wages and benefitting from increased tax credits that address costs of raising children and paying for higher education."

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