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Sarah Palin rallies thousands in Harry Reid’s hometown

Police estimate 8,000 at rally in protest of Democrats, health care overhaul

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Sam Morris

Sarah Palin waves to her fans at the “Showdown in Searchlight” Tea Party Express rally just outside Searchlight on Saturday, March 27, 2010.

Updated Saturday, March 27, 2010 | 4:22 p.m.

Tea Party: "Showdown in Searchlight"

The Tea Party Express buses kicked off their latest national road trip Saturday with a rally in Sen. Harry Reid's hometown of Searchlight, Nev., which only has a population of 700. Sarah Palin gave the keynote address to the thousands who showed up for the "Showdown in Searchlight."

Showdown in Searchlight

Dressed in period costume, William Temple from Brunswick, Ga., calls for revolution at the Launch slideshow »

Jon Ralston on Showdown in Searchlight

Jon Ralston discusses the Showdown in Searchlight on KVBC News.

YouTube: Sarah Palin's Searchlight Speech

Sun Coverage

Saturday schedule

  • 9:30 a.m.
  • Supporters begin to gather at parking lot of Harrah’s Laughlin.

  • 10:20 a.m.
  • Expected departure time of caravan of vehicles from Laughlin to Searchlight. The caravan will be led by the official Tea Party Express buses.

  • 11:50 a.m.
  • Expected arrival time of Tea Party Express caravan at the Searchlight rally site.

  • Noon
  • “Showdown in Searchlight” Tea Party rally. Location: near U.S. 95 and Coyote Mine Road.

  • 3 p.m.
  • Expected departure time of the Tea Party Express caravan from Searchlight to Henderson.

  • 4 p.m.
  • The prerally at Henderson Pavilion has been organized by Grassroots Nevada in support of the Tea Party Express.

  • 4:45 p.m.
  • Conservative author and commentator Ann Coulter will speak at the rally to welcome the Tea Party Express to Henderson.

  • 5 p.m.
  • Expected arrival time of the Tea Party Express caravan at the Henderson Pavilion (final Tea Party rally of the day). Location: 200 S. Green Valley Parkway.

    SEARCHLIGHT -- Sarah Palin told thousands of tea party activists gathered in the Nevada desert that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to explain his votes when he comes back to his hometown.

    The wind whipped U.S. and Alabama flags behind Palin as she stood on the makeshift stage, holding a microphone and her notes as she spoke to the crowd.

    Palin says the big government, big debt spending spree of Reid, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is over, and "you're fired." She told the crowd that Reid is "gambling away our future."

    "Someone needs to tell him, this is not a crapshoot," Palin said.

    She says those protesting the health care overhaul aren't inciting violence, but says they shouldn't sit down and shut up.

    Palin was the main attraction at the rally. It kicks off a 42-city bus tour that ends in Washington on April 15.

    Reid responded Saturday through a statement released by his campaign.

    "I'm happy so many people came to see my hometown of Searchlight and spend their out-of-state money, especially in these tough economic times," Reid said. "This election will be decided by Nevadans, not people from other states who parachuted in for one day to have a tea party."

    Thousands gathered on a dirt lot in Reid's hometown for what organizers are calling the "Showdown in Searchlight."

    The Tea Party Express had expected between 5,000 and 10,000 people. About 8,000 people were at the event as of 2 p.m., according to an estimate from Metro Police spokesman Jay Rivera. Traffic at one time was backed up about five miles from Searchlight.

    Police said there were no arrests at the event, but police did briefly detain one person who had a gun in an open holster. Police also said they responded to one medical call for an person having a seizure at the event.

    Cars and RVs filled the area as people set up lawn chairs and braced against a stiff wind whipping up dust clouds and blowing dozens of flags straight out.

    The rally is targeting Reid and comes on the heels of the passage of the landmark health care reform legislation, which progressives are billing as the most important piece of social legislation since the mid-1960s passage of Medicare, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Passed on a party-line vote, Democrats say the bill expands coverage to the uninsured and cuts the exploding increase in health care costs.

    But to the small-government Tea Party movement, the legislation represents an unconstitutional infringement of liberty and a further extension of the welfare state.

    The movement is now a year old, having been formed in the early days of the Obama administration when it introduced plans to buck up a cratering economy with government spending, tax cuts and bailouts for the collapsing banking and auto industries. The movement continued to gather strength as the administration revealed ambitious plans to reform health care and curb carbon emissions.

    The Republican Party has harnessed the energy of the movement and banked much of its near-term prospects on the movement's ability to turn enthusiasm into electoral victories, like that of the newly-elected governors of New Jersey and Virginia.

    Republicans seemed to be on the upswing with the election of Scott Brown, taking the seat of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and breaking the Democrats' 60-seat supermajority.

    As the Senate majority leader who has shepherded much of the administration's agenda through Congress, Reid is the Tea Party movement's biggest target. He suffers from low approval ratings among Republicans and independents and has yet to secure his base. Roughly a dozen Republicans have lined up in a GOP primary to face him in November.

    Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons, also trailing in his own primary and trying to tap into the conservative grassroots, was to welcome today's speakers.

    Traffic was backed up onto U.S. 95 as crowds filed in this morning. The site has taken on the look of an RV city with a festival atmosphere.

    Ketha Verzani, 60, said she's a Republican, and came to the rally from Las Vegas "to stand with those who want to clean house."

    She opposes the health care bill and worries Americans are losing their rights, including parental rights and gun rights.

    "It seems like every day more and more of our rights are being taken away," Verzani said, sporting a Palin 2012 button to show support for the former Alaska governor who "doesn't beat around the bush."

    Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, appeared in Searchlight after spending Friday and Saturday morning campaigning for Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who led the 2008 ticket.

    A string of polls has shown Reid is vulnerable in Nevada after pushing President Barack Obama's agenda in Congress. His standing has also been hurt by Nevada's double-digit unemployment and record foreclosure and bankruptcy rates.

    Reid supporters planned their own rally Saturday about a mile from the tea party event.

    Luis Salvador, 55, an unemployed fire sprinkler fitter, drove up from Las Vegas to support Reid, who he said has done a lot for the state and doesn't deserve the protest brought to his hometown.

    "You don't come to a man's house and start creating a ruckus," said Salvador, a registered independent. He and several others taped signs saying "Nevada Needs Harry Reid" to the side of a truck near the highway that runs through town.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Schedule of events

    • 10:30 a.m.: A “Candidate’s Forum” is being hosted by the Nevada tea party group, “Anger is Brewing”
    • 11:50 a.m.: Expected arrival time of “Tea Party Express” caravan from Laughlin.
    • 11:50 a.m.: Governor Jim Gibbons riles up crowd to welcome the Tea Party Express
    • 11:55 a.m.: Diana Nagy and Selena Owens welcome crowd. Short prayer, national anthem.
    • 12:01 p.m.: Lloyd Marcus performs “American Tea Party Anthem” and “2010” songs.
    • 12:11 p.m.: Mark Williams, Amy Kremer, Darla Dawald, Melanie Morgan, Howard Kaloogian welcome crowd.
    • 12:15 p.m.: Mark, Amy, Darla, Melanie and Howard announce Sarah Palin – ask crowd to stand and make some noise and exit stage as Gov. Palin takes the stage.
    • 12:17 p.m.: Governor Palin speaks.
    • 12:37 p.m.: Expected conclusion of Governor Palin’s speech.
    • 12:38 p.m.: Rivoli Revue performs “Just Vote Them Out”
    • 12:41 p.m.: Rivoli Revue performs “Big Fat No” [a song against “universal healthcare”]
    • 12:45 p.m.: Roger Hedgecock speaks
    • 12:49 p.m.: Andrew Breitbart speaks
    • 1:02 p.m.: Jon David Performs
    • 1:08 p.m.: Hannah Giles speaks
    • 1:13 p.m.: Diana Nagy performs “Back on Track”
    • 1:17 p.m.: Heidi Harris speaks
    • 1:21 p.m.: Jerry Doyle speaks
    • 1:26 p.m.: Wayne Allyn Root speaks
    • 1:31 p.m.: William & Selena Owens
    • 1:35 p.m.: “Tea Party Express” Song
    • 1:40 p.m.: “Joe The Plumber” speaks
    • 1:45 p.m.: Howard Kaloogian & Melanie Morgan introduce Chuck DeVore
    • 1:47 p.m.: Chuck DeVore speaks
    • 1:50 p.m.: Jim Martin speaks
    • 1:55 p.m.: Andrea Shea King speaks
    • 1:59 p.m.: Victoria Jackson speaks/performs
    • 2:06 p.m.: Angela McGlowan speaks
    • 2:10 p.m.: Polatik Rap
    • 2:15 p.m.: Judson Phillips speaks
    • 2:19 p.m.: Dustin Stockton speaks and introduces Debbie Landis
    • 2:22 p.m.: Debbie Landis hosts U.S. Senate Candidate forum – Nevada
    • 2:45 p.m.: Debbie Lee Veteran Tribute
    • 2:50 p.m.: Rivoli Revue performs “Memorial Day” – Some Gave All
    • 2:55 p.m.: “God Bless the USA” (TPX Singers)
    • 2:59 p.m.: Conclusion of Program

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