Tea Parties Are Vocal, But Are They Representative?

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Thousands of Tea Party protesters are in Washington, D.C., to rally against rising government debt, Obama administration spending and health care policies. Similar Tea Party rallies, though much smaller, have been held around the country. Participants say they represent a growing movement against an expanding federal government. But critics say the Tea Parties represent an extreme. NPR's Allsion Keyes has this report.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Liane Hansen is away. I'm Lynn Neary.

President Barack Obama took his quest for health care reform on the road yesterday.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified People: Yes we can. Yes we can.

NEARY: Telling a chanting crowd at a campaign-like rally in Minneapolis that now is the time for action on health care no matter what his opponents say.

President BARACK OBAMA: This is when they're going to fight with everything they've got. This is when they'll spread all kinds of wild rumors designed to scare and intimidate people.

NEARY: But tens of thousands of people opposed to the president's agenda marched on Capitol Hill yesterday, vowing to seek their own version of change.

NPR's Allison Keyes reports.

(Soundbite of protest)

Unidentified Woman #1: Let freedom ring.

(Soundbite of cheering)

ALLISON KEYES: They chanted everything from freedom to vote them out. Some carried signs reading: no we can't. One banner featured a picture of TV actor Mr. T with the caption: I pity my grandchildren. And there were giant posters calling the president a liar and socialist. Charles McIntyre's(ph) sign read: We want our country back. From whom?

Mr. CHARLES MCINTYRE: Country back from those that are trying to take it away from us - from the liberal spenders.

KEYES: The Blue Bell, Pennsylvania resident thinks the deficit is too high.

Mr. MCINTYRE: How can you reduce a deficit when you're spending trillions? That's impossible.

KEYES: A few feet away from him, the Rucks(ph) of Fort Myers, Florida were carrying a distinctive sign, featuring a sheet with the face of the president and the tail of a wolf.

Mr. RUCK: A wolf in sheep's clothing.

Ms. BEVERLY RUCK: So beware.

KEYES: Beverly Ruck credits Mr. Obama's speech on health care last week for her inspiration.

Ms. RUCK: And it seems like such a fairytale, I thought, you know, it sounded too good to be true.

(Soundbite of cheering)

KEYES: Despite the country's fair-like atmosphere, there was a vein of anger underneath.

Unidentified Woman #2: NPR, you're going to report (unintelligible)?

KEYES: Aimed at what people here have called the mainstream media and those they believe are threatening this country's welfare. Elaine Allred(ph) of Youngstown, Ohio, here with her husband and granddaughter, is blunt about her anger over the growing deficit.

Ms. ELAINE ALLRED: It's not affecting me, it's affecting my grandchildren. We're mad as you know what. I'm not going to say it on TV…

Unidentified Man: This is NPR. You can say anything on NPR.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: And what many here said is they intend to continue this fight. Next target: the upcoming midterm elections.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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