Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin criticized the Obama administration and the Democratic-led Congress today at a Tea Party rally on Boston Common, saying the government had been on a "spending spree" and warning of future tax increases.
"Americans now spend 100 days out of the year working for government before we even start working for ourselves," she said. "It is time to remind [elected officials] that government should be working for us, we should not have to work for the government. That's why there are more and more patriots every day standing up and speaking out."
"We believe in expanding freedom and opportunity for all, not the intrusive reach of government into our lives and businesses," she said.
Palin's 21-minute speech was the highlight of the rally at the public park in the center of the city. The event also included stirring patriotic music, tributes to the military, and digs by other speakers at prominent Democrats, including President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, and US Representative Barney Frank.
Several thousand people appeared to be in attendance. The Boston police do not make crowd estimates. Organizers said earlier this week they expected at least 3,000 people from across New England.
"Massachusetts is a blue-collar, working-stiff state, and we're reclaiming it for America," Mark Williams, chairman of the Tea Party Express, which organized the rally, told the crowd.
"We the people are making it happen, and in November, we are going to vote the bums out," said Amy Kremer, another Tea Party Express official, who urged the crowd to get involved by electing conservatives to public office.
The rally in the city where the original Tea Party was held began shortly after 10 a.m.
Among those watching and listening to Palin was Carla Morey, 54, of Milton, who wore a sticker on her jacket advertising her support for Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles D. Baker, who did not attend the rally.
"She is a true American,'' Morey said. "She has the ability to instill pride, passion and conservative principles.''
An unenrolled voter, Morey said she had donated to the Tea Party organization. "I felt that finally there was somewhere that I could have a voice,'' she said.
She added that as she listened to Palin's talk, she felt one emotion. "I felt happy,'' the retiree said. "I live in a very blue state. I want to turn it red, or at least purple.''
Before the event, which was held on a crisp, sunny spring morning, a brass band played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and plenty of American flags flew, as well as the early American flag that depicts a rattlesnake on a yellow background with the words, "Don't Tread on Me." The latter were on sale in varying sizes, for $2 to $20.
One woman held a sign, reading, "I am not 'the angry mob.' I am an angry, tax-bled, 'hockey mom.' No matter what I write … I will still be called a 'racist, Nazi, teabagger.'"
A counterdemonstrator carrying a sign that read, "Dump Palin in the harbor," was surrounded by a group of Tea Party supporters and asked to leave. He complied.
One of the Tea Partiers walked away, saying, "See that? How's that for coercion?"
John Killion, a US Postal Service worker from South Boston, one of the other Tea Partiers in the group, said he thought the counterdemonstrator "was in pretty poor taste. Their space is never invaded."
"The best policy is just to surround him, smoke him out, and don't say anything," said Killion, referring to a fellow Tea Partier who had been blowing smoke in the counterdemonstrator's face.
Killion said it was his first Tea Party event ever and he was looking forward to hearing Palin speak.
"She tells it like it is," he said.
Not all the discourse was so tense, however. Steve Hurley, a fund-raiser for a nonprofit, walked up to Tea Partier Harry Mentas after seeing the sign, "Vote to Impeach," held by Mentas.
Hurley, of Woburn, and Mentas, a computer programmer from Plymouth, talked about health care reform for several minutes, and the chat ended with a handshake.
"I disagree with you. I don't think you are a Nazi,'' Hurley told Mentas, who was accompanied by his two school-age children. "I think you are a decent, respectful human being.''
Mentas said critics "think we hate liberals and that it's visceral. But I just disagree with him on health reform.''
He added that the more dramatic confrontations likely do not involve actual Tea Party members. Mentas said those involved were "crashers. Those are people who want to make us look bad."
A number of others interviewed, apparently sensitive to criticisms of previous incidents attributed to Tea Party members, emphasized that the crowd was civil, respectful, and simply enthusiastic about the cause they were rallying behind.
Palin, the former governor of Alaska, was Senator John McCain's running mate in 2008. Despite her election loss and the questions raised about her qualifications to be president, she still has a devoted following among some conservatives.
The fervently anti-establishment Tea Party movement is a new force in American politics, whose future impact is still being debated. Members of the loosely organized group generally support fiscal conservatism and believe that the federal government has overstepped its bounds. The rallies organized by the Tea Party Express group are expected to conclude Thursday with a rally in Washington, D.C.
Boston is a Democratic stronghold, and Massachusetts is considered a liberal-leaning state, but the political establishment was shocked in January by the Senate special election victory of Republican Scott Brown, who benefited from the support of Tea Party followers.
Leading figures in the state Republican party have split on whether to join the rally with the group. Like Baker, Brown did not attend. But Christy Mihos, another GOP gubernatorial hopeful, will attend.
Independent Tim Cahill, another candidate for governor, circulated through the crowd, arriving about an hour after Palin's speech. "One reason I'm here is to find out more, to see who represents the Tea Party," he said.
He said some of those in the crowd might become his supporters if they responded to his message of support for the middle class.
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