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By Scott Jorgensen
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
April 22, 2009

It’s been just over a week since people across the United States expressed their frustration at the federal government in a series of tea party protests. But the subsequent days have been filled with a series of divergent opinions about what the events of April 15, 2009 actually meant.

The two-hour rally at the Josephine County Courthouse in Grants Pass, Or. had well over 1,000 people in attendance at its peak. Participants came from all walks of life and income levels, yet were there for the same exact purpose: To declare that they had finally had enough.

Hand-made signs and American flags waved high in the air as hundreds of passing motorists honked their horns in support. Protesters lined both sides of the street, just like they would during a parade.

Much has been written during the last week regarding what exactly these people were protesting. But at the Grants Pass event, that was spelled out fairly early on by Richard Burke, the Oregon grassroots director for conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

Burke said the tea parties had nothing to do with Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or anything of the sort.

“This is not about party,” Burke said. “It’s about Americans worrying about the future of the country.”

Liberal blogs throughout the U.S. stated that the tea parties were about Barack Obama and tax cuts.
Not according to Burke.

“It’s about debt,” he said. “It’s about spending.”

There have been many accusations that the tea party protests were organized from the top-down by anyone from Fox News to the Republican Party itself. But during his speech Jack Swift, AFP’s Josephine County coordinator and an organizer of the Grants Pass protest, pointed out that all the speakers at that event were grassroots people.

In fact, Swift said that several politicians had been invited to attend the event.

“Most ignored us,” he said.

So who were these throngs of people who took time out of their day to stand in front of the Josephine County Courthouse and make their voices heard? Well, according to a show of hands, many of them were U.S. military veterans. One of them was Vietnam veteran Gil Gillingham, who was among the speakers.

During his speech, Swift traced the nation’s problems back to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, and said they continued under the Nixon administration, through the passage of the Endangered Species Act and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The result was, we drove big business out,” Swift said. “But big business supports a whole lot of small business.”

Internet radio host Hal Anthony told the audience that he had been getting calls about the tea parties from people all over the country.

“This is not an isolated incident,” Anthony said.

The crowd slowly thinned out as daylight faded, but those who still lingered afterwards expressed optimism that perhaps the protests made a statement loud enough to be heard.

However, with all the subsequent noise that’s been made about the events, it’s hard to tell if that was the case.

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History will ultimately judge the participants not on the words spoken at these rallies, but by their future actions, or lack thereof. One thing is for certain, though—the debate over government spending, debt and taxation will not be over any time soon.

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W. Scott Jorgensen is a resident of Cave Junction, Oregon and reports for the Illinois Valley News. He hosts a talk show on KAJO radio in Grants Pass from 9:30 to 10:30 every Wednesday morning and has reported for various daily, weekly and monthly newspapers, worked as a press secretary for a 2004 Congressional campaign and served as an aide in the 2005 Oregon Legislature.

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Internet radio host Hal Anthony told the audience that he had been getting calls about the tea parties from people all over the country.