Enquirer Herald

Hundreds rally at 'tea party'

YORK -- Some 300 people gathered on a grassy hill behind the Coal Yard restaurant, where diners got free iced tea with their lunches.

It was one of the hundreds of so-called "Tax Day Tea Party" events held across the U.S. last Wednesday to protest the country's tax system and President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan.

They heard from York County GOP Chairman Glenn McCall, elected last year to a seat on the 100-member Republican National Committee.

"We definitely believe in paying our fair share of taxes," McCall said. "We're honored to do that. I'm sure you'd probably feel just as honored paying half of what you did."

Earlier in the day, President Obama met with a group of middle-class Americans at the White House. Obama talked about how 95 percent of all working families will receive a tax cut under his budget plan.

The argument didn't do much for James Magennis of Clover, who came to the York rally wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "I Miss Reagan."

Magennis said he is fed up with the billions spent bailing out General Motors and financial institutions on the verge of collapse.

"I kind of believe in the free market," he said. The economy "would've been better if the government backed off instead of jumping in."

Up on stage, a speaker implored Magennis and others to keep up the fight by holding more rallies. A woman in the crowd suggested another possible host: Democratic U.S. Rep. John Spratt of York.

Spratt voted for Obama's stimulus plan, saying the pain of the recession would be far worse without major intervention.

"Next tea party at John Spratt's house!" the woman shouted.

About 80 showed up at another Tea Party in Fort Mill where Tom Donnelly took hold of the microphone like a politician ready to stump for votes.

"The problem we're having right now is not with Democrats. It's not with Republicans," he told listeners. "It's with government. It's broken."

But Donnelly was not running for office Wednesday morning outside Town Hall in Fort Mill. The 43-year-old business consultant hoped to rally support for a larger cause: Motivating regular people to speak out against government spending.

"My wife and I have never done anything like this before," Donnelly said before his speech. "Someone needed to get the word out up here. Let's get government back to what it's supposed to do."

Donnelly and his wife, Beth, had planned to attend a big statewide rally in Columbia. But the couple decided they could make a bigger impact by organizing an event for people in Fort Mill. A card table and sound equipment were pretty much all that was needed.

"I apologize for the lack of music, but I just broke my iPod," Donnelly told listeners at the start.

The rally was short on pageantry, but it brought together an eclectic group of people, from grandparents and veterans to young children waving. Many carried signs with messages such as "I Love America" and "Big Spender/My Money."

"We need to wake up," said Donnelly's wife, Beth, who helped run the program. "We need to put our foot down. And we need to make a stand."

The message resonated with Fort Mill's Angie Knape, who brought her two young daughters, both of whom are home-schooled.

"I don't want to see their lives plagued with the decisions of a government that doesn't seem to be thinking too much about their future," Knape said. "They're spending money we don't have."

A similar frustration was voiced by Tommy Martin. Standing with his 8-year-old grandson, Jonathan, Martin needed only a few words to sum up the views of many protesters.

"I'm for a lot less government," he said. "I'm against taxation. And socialism also."