_Click “here”:https://flathatnews.com/content/70731/colonial-era-tea-party to watch a video about the Colonial Area Tea Party._
Approximately 500 people gathered in the Crim Dell Meadow at the College of William and Mary to protest state and federal tax policies at the “Colonial Area Tea Party for America” Saturday. The event, organized by the College Republicans, was organized to rally against what the group called “wasteful government spending.”
“Our event is part of a national movement to have these Tea Parties during the week of Tax Day,” College Republican Chairman Thomas Chappell ’11 said. “It is clear that many of us here at the College are fed up with the wasteful government spending and the bailouts that run contrary to the principles of capitalism and threaten the American Dream.”
Despite the event’s name, there was no rebellious dumping of colonial tea into the Crim Dell. Instead, a large crowd of mostly over 50-year-olds, along with a few students and children, listened to speeches from prominent Virginia politicians and student leaders of College political organizations.
Although the event was advertised as a non-partisan event, there was a clear conservative tone to the ceremony.
Speakers included U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA 1), Va. Delegates Brenda Pogge and Bill Janis and Va. Sen. Tommy Norment, all of whom are Republicans.
Maurice Nestor, the Williamsburg community coordinator from the organization Americans for Fair Taxation, was also present. According to the group’s website, it promotes legislation that “abolishes all federal personal and corporate income taxes, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare and self-employment taxes and replaces them with one simple, visible, federal retail sales tax administered primarily by existing state sales tax authorities.”
“If you understand the legislation, you’ll support it,” Nestor said.
Mary K. Jones, vice chair of the James City County Board of Supervisors, also spoke.
“It is important that we get back to the principles of free enterprise,” Jones said. “Get the government out of the way.”
Student speakers included Michael Young ’11, president of William and Mary Young Libertarians, and law student Stephen Murray J.D. ’11, an active duty Naval Officer.
In his speech, Young said that the Young Libertarians disagree with many of the College Republicans’ opinions, except on the issue of big government spending.
“On this one we are with the [College Republicans] one-hundred percent, and with a campus coalition we are ready to fight this battle,” Young said.
Allusions to the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers developed a clear motif for the event.
“These tea parties are in many ways protests against taxation without representation,” Chappell said. “The vast majority of people that will be forced to pay for all the bailouts, stimuli and big government programs are not represented in Washington. Most of the people that will be forced to foot the bill are not even born yet. If that is not taxation without representation, I don’t know what is.”
Janis’s speech invoked Patrick Henry’s historic arrival in Williamsburg to protest the Stamp Acts. He also recited parts of Thomas Jefferson’s first Inaugural Address.
Other speakers also alluded to Jeffersonian principles. Murray said that the reality of Lincoln’s famous mantra from the Gettysburg Address has been twisted into “a government of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats and for the bureaucrats.”
Murray promoted boycotting banks and insurance companies that receive bailout money in order to “stop government socialism and crony capitalism.”
Wittman spoke last, reiterating Janis’s allusions to the injustice of the Stamp Act and calling Washington “thirty miles of fantasy land surrounded by reality.”
The crowd booed when speakers mentioned Democratic leaders such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank.
Some held signs reading, “Obama! I’ll pay the taxes, you keep ‘the change,’” and “Repent America! Maybe
it’s not too late!” Attendees also bought buttons bearing President Barack Obama’s face with the words
“Welcome back, Carter” and waved “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.
“The speakers definitely knew how to get the crowd going,” Will Clements ’11, a member of the College Republicans, said.
Amanda Russell ’11, another College Republicans member, said that it was not exactly a nonpartisan turnout, but she was excited to see so much passion surrounding a conservative event.
“For once, you know, the Republicans get to protest,” Russell said.
Audience enthusiasm translated into further activism as attendees filled out hundreds of postcards with teabags printed on them to send to politicians like Obama, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Wittman.
The Americans for Fair Taxation added over 100 people to their mailing list according to an e-mail from Chappell. Other attendees were able to register to vote at another stand, which Pogge described as a means to “register like-minded people.”
The organizers of the event were thrilled with its success. According to Chappell, the Tea Party was the most-attended activity hosted by the College Republicans in recent memory. Despite the cold rain, only about half of the original crowd left due to the weather.
“It is rare when politicians are this accessible, but I think the event provided an appropriate forum for our elected leaders to touch base with their grassroots in an informal setting, which is exactly what we are looking for,” Chappell said. “It’s one thing to have a rally just to complain and protest, but it’s so much more effective if we can turn our frustration into action by telling our elected leaders how we feel in person.”