Published Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | 12:49 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | 7:04 p.m.
Sunset Park isn’t exactly a harbor, and Lipton tea bags aren’t much like the tea that was tossed into Boston Harbor more than 235 years ago.
But protesters who attended a modern-day TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party at Sunset Park on Wednesday afternoon hope their actions in protesting high taxation, increased government spending embodied in the federal stimulus package and all things Obama will carry a similar message.
Metro Police estimated the crowd at between 1,500 and 2,000 people and said there were no problems at the event, which was one of dozens held nationwide.
Clark County Republican Party Executive Director Susane Crawford organized the event at Sunset Park. Speakers included officials of the Libertarian and Independent American Parties.
While there were no incidents, there was no shortage of fiery rhetoric. Keynote speaker Herman Cain, a conservative radio talk show host based in Atlanta, said the TEA Parties were a way for Americans upset with taxation and government spending to be heard.
“Like you, I am here not only because I’m tea’d off, but I’m fed up,” Cain said. “We are all fed up of Washington, D.C., forgetting about we the people … We the people are still in charge of this country, and we have to keep it that way.”
Cain railed against reports that painted the gatherings as groups of isolated, disaffected individuals.
“The mainstream media and the Obama Administration are trying to spin this as we are just a bunch of angry, crazy people,” he said. “Well, in the words of my grandfather, ‘We gonna show y’all crazy.’”
In an e-mail, Nevada State Democratic Party Communications Director Phoebe Sweet said the tax plan put forth by Obama and the Democratic Party has reduced the tax burden on 98 percent of Americans — putting $800 back in the pockets of families making less than $250,000 per year, which need the money most.
“The organizers of today’s protests are a vocal minority,” Sweet said. “While these Tea Parties may have been attention-grabbing, there have been dozens of protests large and small over the course of this legislative session in which constituents have asked for legislators to maintain the essential services their tax dollars pay for – schools, police, health care.
“And while it’s easy for the Republican Party to repeat their mantra of ‘No,’ reversing the failed economic policies of the last eight years will take more than tea bags and gimmicks. It will take Democratic leaders making sound policy that works for American families.”
The crowd at the event was a mixed bag that included everyone from suited businessmen on their lunch breaks to the more eclectic, including a man wearing a pink pig suit and carrying a sign proclaiming “Pork is for BBQ, not budgets.”
Another man was wearing nothing but a barrel and carried a giant placard protesting everything from the gaming industry to the Nevada Supreme Court to Sen. Harry Reid.
Henderson resident Don Sherer carried a collection plate and a sign saying, “AIG needs your money.”
“It’s sarcasm,” Sherer said. “It’s all so ridiculous. They’re stealing from the poor to give to the rich. It’s Robin Hood in reverse.”
Sherer said he collected $6.11 in donations from people who appreciated the joke enough to play along, which “is more than the Congress bill left me with today,” he said.
Sherer, like some others in the crowd, said he didn’t agree with everything that was said. At one point, when a speaker advocated that everyone in the audience stop paying their taxes altogether, several crowd members booed.
“I’m not so radical,” he said. “But I’m so frustrated, I’m just about to explode.”
Las Vegas resident Carol Collins said she attended the TEA Party to protest the general direction of the country.
“I see our liberties being slowly eroded away, day by day,” she said. “Each event that happens every day in this administration is another deterrent to the founding fathers, to our Constitution. What we have believed in, what we have grown up with, is being changed without our consent.”
Summerlin resident Ron Guys, who emigrated from Colombia in 1961, said he worked his way up from washing dishes to business owner. He said what is happening in the United States is similar to what was happening in South America when he left.
“Now, Obama comes in and says, ‘OK, I’m going to be your business partner. I’m going to take 50 percent, you’re going to take 50 percent, because I have to give my 50 percent to all these people over here,” Guys said.
Local talk show radio host Casey Hendrickson of KXNT-840 AM said the TEA Party was not a partisan event. “This isn’t a Republican event, this isn’t a Democratic event,” he said. “This is an American event.”
The gathering was one of hundreds that took place across the country Wednesday.
Police estimated the Carson City crowd at more than 1,000, and they held up signs decrying socialism, deploring high taxes and lambasting the bailout. A large wooden replica of the Statue of Liberty was face down on the back of a truck.
Signs included: "I'm mad as hell and I vote," "No new taxes," "Wake Up America," "Anybody but Harry," and "It's the Spending Stupid."
And many that accused Obama of spreading socialism or even leading the country to communism.
Reno Republican Assemblyman Ty Cobb addressed the crowd at one point, saying, "We don't need to be raising taxes. A lot of people don't get that."
Sun reporter David McGrath Schwartz contributed to this story.