Crowds Pack Downtown D.C. To Protest Spending

Protesters rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington Saturday. Jose Luis Magana/AP i i

Protesters rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington Saturday. Jose Luis Magana/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jose Luis Magana/AP
Protesters rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington Saturday. Jose Luis Magana/AP

Protesters rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington Saturday.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

Tens of thousands of people marched through Washington Saturday to protest President Obama's proposed health care plans. The rowdy pilgrimage capped a series of conservative "Tea Party" rallies across the country.

As the demonstrators walked along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the U.S. Capitol, the line stretched as far as the eye could see in either direction. The crowd was so thick in places that it was difficult to move. People like Jenni Goyet, a mother of two from Virginia Beach, Va., say they came for a whole range of issues.

Protesters rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington Saturday. Jose Luis Magana/AP i i

The crowd's chants included "Enough, enough" and "We the People," and "You lie, you lie." Jose Luis Magana/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jose Luis Magana/AP
Protesters rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington Saturday. Jose Luis Magana/AP

The crowd's chants included "Enough, enough" and "We the People," and "You lie, you lie."

Jose Luis Magana/AP

"Health care for one, government spending all of our money on stuff that we're not approving them to spend it on. I have a 7- and a 4-year-old, and they have a lot of debt already, and they shouldn't have that," Goyet says.

There was a carnival atmosphere. Many people brought their children, strollers, dogs and folding chairs. But there was also a strong undercurrent of anger, from people like Goyet's mother, Dedi Rapp.

"I want them to leave us alone. They work for us. We are not their servant, they are our servants, and we are going to vote them all out," she says.

Repp and Goyet, like many in the crowd, wore yellow T-shirts with the slogan "Don't tread on me" — which was first used as a cry for liberty in the Revolutionary War against England. Others in the crowd carried signs depicting Obama made up to resemble Batman villain The Joker, banners describing him as a socialist, fliers calling the president a liar, and perhaps most ominously for the Democratic Party, signs reading November 2010 — a reference to the upcoming midterm elections that people like Dan Van Vleet hope will mean more conservatives in office.

Protesters rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington Saturday. Jose Luis Magana/AP i i

Protesters say unchecked spending on things like a government-run health insurance option could increase inflation and lead to economic ruin. Jose Luis Magana/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jose Luis Magana/AP
Protesters rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington Saturday. Jose Luis Magana/AP

Protesters say unchecked spending on things like a government-run health insurance option could increase inflation and lead to economic ruin.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

"I hope everybody shows up to vote. Maybe we can change a little bit of what's going on," he says.

Teenager Hannah Hnida, from Youngstown, Ohio, came with her grandparents to protest the growing deficit.

"The only way that you can have a balanced government [budget] is to spend less than what you earn," she says.

As diverse as the crowd seemed to be in age and geography, one reporter saw only a handful of African Americans and other people of color in the crowd. But Chicagoan Terryll Nemeth, a black woman, is dismissive of anyone who suggests race is a factor in these demonstrations against the nation's first African-American president.

"I would never vote for anybody that has the agenda that he has. I don't care what color they are," she says.

From tort reform to term limits to ire over bailout of the auto and banking industries, protesters say their dissatisfaction goes far beyond health care reform.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.