Hundreds attend tax day protests in Wichita

Waving signs blasting taxes and national health care, several hundred conservatives gathered near Wichita City Hall on Thursday for their annual tax day "tea party" protest.

But unlike last year's event near Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, this time people could pick their party.

A group calling itself the "Coffee Party" counterdemonstrated nearby, saying they wanted to bring civility back to civil discourse.

The tea party rally was one of scores of tax day rallies from Maine to Hawaii. In Washington, several thousand rallied in the shadow of the Ronald Reagan office building, capping a national protest of the tax system, government spending and the Obama administration.

The focus Thursday in Wichita was more on the recently enacted national health care law.

The crowd cheered enthusiastically when Rep. Aaron Jack, R-Andover, outlined a resolution he's sponsoring in the state Legislature to force Attorney General Steve Six to have Kansas join a suit by 18 other states challenging the constitutionality of the new federal health law.

Jack pointed out that Six was appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who, as the federal secretary of Health and Human Services, would be a main defendant in the lawsuit.

"It's a gross injustice and a very significant conflict of interest to choose your old boss over the people of Kansas," he said.

Six has said he decided not to bring the state into the lawsuit because it's almost certainly a loser in court.

Around the corner, a group of about 50 local members of Coffee Party USA gathered to counterdemonstrate.

"They (the tea party protesters) are spreading a lot of lies about what the government's doing," said Angela White of Wichita. "In my opinion, they're spreading fear that isn't there."

The tea party crowd repeatedly cheered speakers who accused the president of moving the country toward socialism.

"Government is not the enemy," said the event's headliner, "American Warning" radio talk show host David Robertson. "Individuals are the enemy, who comprise the government."

While the crowd was dotted with Republican candidates and supporters carrying their signs — and former GOP county chairman Dan Stockemer made a pitch for the Pachyderm Club — Robertson criticized both Democrats and the GOP.

"I'm not interested in a party, I'm interested in the longevity of this republic," Robertson said.

While much of the talk was about state and national issues, local government didn't escape the wrath of the tea party.

Sprinkling in references to the WaterWalk and Warren Theatre projects, restaurateur Craig Gabel and lawyer Kenny Estes decried the city's spending millions of dollars in public money to facilitate private development.

"When the owner of a movie theater says, 'I want to build an IMAX but I need help,' what should you say?" Estes asked the crowd.

"No!" the crowd shouted.

Coffee party organizer Nancy Snyder said she wants to see less of the name-calling that's become a staple of political debate.

"I don't want to quibble over words," she said. "I think there are bigger issues to deal with than who's a patriot and who's not a patriot or who's a socialist and who's not a socialist."

In Kansas City, Kan., about 2,000 people attended a rally at Community America Baseball Park as speakers recommended doing away with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Education, and touted the importance of the Constitution.

"You are the army of Davids," said Milton Wolf, a doctor and a relative of President Obama's, as the crowd stood and cheered. "We will not back down. We will change this Congress, and we will change this country."

About 600 people attended a march and rally in Salina, where organizers said they wanted to send a message that "out-of-control government spending and bailouts have to stop." About 40 people attended a counterdemonstration nearby, saying they wanted to thank government workers and support the Obama administration.

One national tea party group estimated that more than 800 rallies were scheduled for Thursday, while another put the number at more than 1,000.

In an attempt to codify the movement's beliefs, national organizers on Thursday announced the "Contract From America," a 10-point policy plan modeled on the House Republicans' 1994 Contract With America.

The contract, which was drafted by online vote, included a call for "a simple and fair single tax rate system," a cap on growth in federal spending and a balanced budget amendment.

Police estimate 1,200 people showed up in Hartford, Conn. At least 1,000 paraded through downtown Boise, Idaho; about 500 rallied in Oklahoma City.

In Washington, the anger was directly firmly at Obama and Democratic congressional leaders. The crowd chanted, "There's a communist in the White House" at the urging of the ukulele-playing Victoria Jackson, a former cast member on "Saturday Night Live."

The slogans on signs and T-shirts were biting, sometimes raw: "We Want Regime Change," "Save a Seal, Club a Liberal," "Down with the Gov't Takeover," "End the Fed" and "Waterboard Bernanke." Some American flags waved upside down in the breeze.

The tax code was the villain of the day. "We have got to take the country back by taking back the money they take from us," Jim Tomasik of FairTax Nation told the crowd.

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