Texas Tea Takes New Meaning At 'Parties'

Tens of thousands of people gathered at hundreds of rallies across the country on Saturday to celebrate Independence Day, but also to protest federal government spending and taxes. The rallies were called "tea (aka "taxed-enough already") parties" and were organized on the Internet. One of the biggest events was near Dallas.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Thousands of conservative Americans celebrated part of their Fourth of July at hundreds of TEA parties around the country, but these gatherings were not to drink tea. T-E-A stands for Taxed Enough Already. Hundreds attended the TEA party held at the Southfork Ranch in Texas where the TV series "Dallas" was filmed. No politicians were invited to that one. On the other side of Dallas, in the suburb of Rockwall, Texas Governor Rick Perry was invited to speak.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

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WADE GOODWYN: There was no talk of global warming as the temperature climbed through the 90s on its way to triple digits. A pleasant breeze blew through the large trees that surround the courthouse. The crowd clustered in chairs in the shade, some with signs. One sign said, hey, Democrats, fed up yet? With the word fed in quotes. Taxes took a beating. Other messages equated the current White House with fascists and socialists. And there were a lot of signs with the word constitution in them, as in try paying attention to it. The crowd was mostly older - over 40 anyway - and they turned their faces expectantly as their governor stepped to the microphone on the courthouse steps.

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Governor RICK PERRY (Republican, Texas): Rockwall, how are you today?

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Gov. PERRY: We got any patriots in the crowd?

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Gov. PERRY: Amen.

GOODWYN: Texas Governor Rick Perry is facing a tough reelection campaign against Republican U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who's coming home to run against him. Perry drew attention not long after President Obama took office by expressing sympathy for those conservative Texans who might wish to leave the union. Celebrating the national birthday, the governor clarified that TEA party supporters are not secessionists at heart and that neither is he.

Gov. PERRY: We're not here to preach rebellion or subversion or insurrection. We are here today to express our love of this country, the greatest country on the earth and discuss ways to make sure that it doesn't run off the cliff.

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GOODWYN: While a devoted gathering might linger over political speeches in cooler climbs, in Rockwall, the TEA party was an hour and done. The town is located along a large Dallas lake - Lake Ray Hubbard - and one ski boat after another passed by the rally behind shiny pickup trucks on the way to the boat ramp. As she headed for her family's Fourth of July celebration, Sandra Morris(ph) spoke out.

Ms. SANDRA MORRIS: I would like to see somebody in Washington put some checks and balances against our new president. You know, the thing that's going on with GM, all the money we're giving to the banks. No, let them fail, others will spring up and we'll go back to where we should be.

GOODWYN: If Democrats have taken on the mantle of the party of change, these conservatives want no part of it - they want to change back.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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