About 500 residents with signs and flags gathered Wednesday at Durango's Rotary Park to protest high taxes, excessive spending by the federal government and the country's new direction under President Barack Obama."We are here because we care about the future of our country and how the decisions the government makes will affect each and every one of us and future generations," said Kelli Bryant, an organizer of the Tax Day Tea Party in Durango.
The gathering, billed as nonpartisan, was purposely held on the deadline for filing federal income taxes.
It coincided with "Tea Parties" held nationwide in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party, which took place in 1773 when men boarded ships anchored in the Boston Harbor and dumped overboard chests of tea belonging to the British East India Co. The event was to protest Britain's imposing taxes on its American Colonies. At the time, many protesting Americans cried "no taxation without representation."
Under partially cloudy skies, participants at Durango's tea party opened with a prayer. Later, they sang the National Anthem, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and sang "God Bless America" and "You're a Grand Old Flag."
About 30 people waved American flags and 50 carried signs. Some of the slogans on signs read: "Party like it's 1773," "Stop government gone wild," "You are not entitled to what I have earned," "I thought we left high taxes behind in England," and "RIP 1776-2009 223 years to build, three months to destroy."
About two dozen people took turns at a microphone to voice their displeasure with high taxes, a growing federal deficit, a perceived erosion of freedom and unresponsive leadership in Washington.
Gary Andersen, who has lived in Durango for 45 years, had a message for Obama: "Mr. Obama, my message is simple. America is not the enemy. It is not the problem; it never has been. It is the solution, so quit apologizing for us and quit spending my grandkids' money."
Denise Murray said the tea parties held nationwide should serve as a wakeup call to elected officials in Washington.
"This country was blessed by God many years ago," she said, "and if we don't take it back and turn it back to him, I fear we are going to lose it."
Ed Andersson said adults need to teach children how to research candidates and issues before voting, "otherwise we're going to have chaos like we do today."
Shaina Bryant, 14, said the government is on a spending spree, giving billions to businesses with failed policies. Leaders in Washington need to analyze the federal budget, cut wasteful spending and lower taxes for citizens and business, she said.
"In times of trouble, we unite and fight back," Bryant said. "Today, we are saying to our government you have gone too far. Stop this spending and lies. We are sick and tired of it."
Lou Webb of Durango said Obama acts like Robin Hood.
"It doesn't work to take from the people who have amassed something by taking great risk," Webb said. "We can't take from those people and be Robin Hood and steal from them and give to the guy who doesn't want to get up in the morning and go to work."
Before the two-hour rally was over, several participants march-ed down Main Avenue to the La Plata County Courthouse, where they stood on the front lawn and sang "God Bless America."
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 95 percent of all working families will receive tax cuts, according to a news release from the White House. In addition, 70 percent of the tax benefits will go to the middle 60 percent of American workers.
"That's nice," said Mark Mahlum, a self-proclaimed libertarian.
But he said taxes violate economic freedom.
The most important thing individuals do daily is earn a living, Mahlum said. But then the federal government confiscates a huge chunk of those earnings, he said.
The primary function of the federal government is to defend property and life, and regulate states, he said, but it has extended its responsibilities and inflated in size, which restricts individual freedom.
"The emphasis of the Obama administration is on the collective, not the individual," Mahlum said.
With the system in place, the wealthy pay most of the taxes in America, he said. But to Mahlum, the wealthy should not have to subsidize the poor, and everyone should pay for what he or she receives.
Mahlum advocates user taxes and taxation at the local level. The federal government is inefficient and spends too much money collecting and administering taxes.
"If you use it, you pay for it," Mahlum said. "If I drive a mile on the highway, why shouldn't I pay for a mile that I drove rather than splitting it up among everybody? You should pay for what you get and not for what someone else gets."
Several small counterprotests were held across the country, where some protested the protesters and reminded them of the federal deficit's increase under President George W. Bush. There was no sign of a counterprotest in Durango.