Rochester Tea Party rally draws crowd (video)

By Heather J. Carlson

The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

People upset over government bailouts, a rising federal deficit and the federal health care bill rallied at Soldiers Memorial Field for the second annual Rochester Tea Party Patriots' Tax Day protest.

"We want smaller government. We want them to spend our money responsibly, and we want them to get back to the Constitution," Tea Party member Bonnie Haugen told a cheering crowd.


Organizers estimated that about 1,000 people turned out for the rally. Rochester police put the total at about 500.

Many people in the crowd carried American flags and dressed in red, white and blue. Many protesters carried homemade signs, including one that read "Stop bailouts, stimulus and pork" and another that read "Save our sovereignty" decorated with tea bags.

While last year's rally focused on voicing anger at what was going on in Washington, this rally went a step further. Organizers called on the crowd to get involved in electing candidates this fall that represent Tea Party values.

"Our politicians' bosses are not in Europe. They are not the media, and they are not the United Nations. We are their bosses. And if they don't start listening to us, we are going to kick their butts out," said Rochester Tea Party Patriot Chairwoman Cindy Maves.

Despite threats of a counter-rally, only one individual showed up to protest the event. Scott MacDonald stood quietly behind the crowd holding a sign that read, "End the politics of fear and hatred." He said he wanted to represent a different point of view — that the previous years of conservative leadership in Washington are what led to many of the problems America faces today. He added that it is time to "fix the problems rather than saying lies."

Tea Party organizations were on high alert amid threats that opponents might infiltrate the group and hold misspelled signs and act out to make the organization look bad. To discourage such behavior, the group had security and police officers on the scene, but no problems arose.

Several Republican candidates, along with some Independence Party candidates, turned out for the event, eager to win over potential voters. They included all of the candidates looking to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in November.

Also at the event was GOP gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert and state Senate candidate Carla Nelson. The Constitution Party, Libertarian Party and Republican Party all had tables.


KROC AM radio host Tom Ostrom fired up the crowd, talking about the upcoming elections.

"The hope and change that we really need is for 2010 and 2012 to repeal and defund Obama-care and block the march to socialism and a command economy," he said.

Other speakers included former 1st District GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht and GOP Secretary of State candidate Dan Severson.

Dressed in an authentic replica of a Revolutionary War uniform, Jerry Korstad was among those who turned out for the rally. He said he is deeply concerned about the current leadership in Washington.

He added, "They are destroying our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence. They have no regard for anything sacred."

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