Kingsport 'tea party' draws hundreds of protesters

Hank Hayes • Apr 15, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — They’ve had enough already.

And they’re not going to take it anymore.

Hundreds of Northeast Tennessee anti-tax “Tea Party” protesters rallied and vented their feelings while standing on the soggy Memorial Park lawn Wednesday afternoon amid overcast skies and cool temperatures.

They had enough taxes, enough federal bailouts, enough federal spending and enough stimulus plans.

They signed petitions, and the National Rifle Association was there to recruit new members.

The crowd was clearly caught up in the spirit of a national tax day happening, with similar events being held elsewhere around the region.

They wore tea bags on baseball caps, got copies of the U.S. Constitution, and waved signs at motorists on Fort Henry Drive.

CLICK THE BOX BELOW for a video report from the scene.

Some of the signs read:

“Taxed Enough Already.”

“No More Words. Be Responsible.”

“Fed Up With The Feds.”

“My Kids Are Broke Already.”

“Stop Socialism.”

“Stop (President) Obama.”

“Fire Congress.”

“Term Limits — Start The Next Election.”

The crowd cheered the opening prayer, which asked God to protect the U.S. Constitution.

“Yeah! Amen!” crowd members exclaimed while Dobyns-Bennett High School students across Fort Henry Drive were trying to make their way home from school.

Event host Johnny Roberts kept the crowd energized by reading off a list of grievances with the federal government, while organizer James Queen encouraged people to stay in touch.

“We’re in troubled times or we wouldn’t be doing this,” Queen said of the gathering.

Tricorn-wearing John Elliott of Abingdon with the Overmountain Victory Trail Association was among the patriots adding a Revolutionary War flavor to the event.

“All our ancestors fought in the American Revolution,” he said.

Among the numerous speakers was Kevin Cole of Johnson City, speaking on behalf of freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Roe of Johnson City.

Cole chanted “no more taxes” and pointed out that Roe voted against President Barack Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget and $787 billion federal stimulus plan.

But Gilbert Watson of Church Hill was upset about Roe’s vote to tax bonuses paid to AIG executives.

“Those bonuses were the result of a valid contract. In the Constitution, it is specifically stated that Congress shall make no law abrogating the validity of a contract,” Watson pointed out.

The event’s keynote speaker, former U.S. Rep. David Davis, spoke out against politicians using the tax code as a tool for social engineering.

“They use it to control our behavior, steer our choices and change the way we live our lives,” Davis, a Johnson City Republican, said of the tax code. “Our elected representatives should only use taxes to fund the necessities of government, and they must put a stop to both social engineering and corporate bailouts.”

Before he spoke, Davis was asked if his remarks represented an unofficial kickoff to his 2010 campaign to unseat Roe.

“I haven’t decided whether I’m going to run yet,” said Davis, who lost to Roe in the 2008 GOP primary. “I’m keeping the door open. This event is really about freedom and liberty. ... We’ve lost our faith in God as a Christian nation. And we’ve lost our faith in the Constitution. If we get back to those two things, America continues to be a shining city on the hill.”

When asked why “Tea Parties” weren’t held when the policies of former President George W. Bush were adding to the national debt, Davis responded: “I think there should have been. The Republicans spent too much money. But this is not a Republican crowd. This is not a Democrat crowd. This is an American crowd. I think Americans right now are fed up with politicians.”

But not everyone in the crowd felt like the event was nonpartisan.

“The Boston Tea Party was organized to protest taxation without representation,” said William Earp Jr., of Bristol, Tenn. “These neo-cons are represented by Republicans, and still they protest. ... (They need to) follow Christ and not (talk radio host) Rush Limbaugh and (former U.S. House Speaker) Newt Gingrich.”

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