The commotion around the Commons yesterday was not a last-minute rush to mail tax returns. Instead, the small crowd of activists that assembled on the corner of E. State Street and Seneca Street had gathered to protest federal government taxation policies that, according to the organizer’s event invitations, constitute “willful, deliberate and recklessly irresponsible fiscal behavior.”
Organized by Emily Forsythe ’09, “Tea Party Ithaca” joined hundreds of locally arranged “tea party” demonstrations across the nation to voice disapproval of various government spending policies. The demonstrations were so named as to invoke the Boston Tea Party and the revolutionary sentiments against big government taxation and control.
Comprised of students and residents of Ithaca and nearby towns, the crowd displayed an assortment of homemade signs, Gadsden flags and American flags to passing traffic and pedestrians.
“There’s a little bit too much taxation and a little bit too much — no, let me change that to an ungodly amount — of government,” George Vignaux, a protestor, said.
Nearby activists agreed with him.
“There are taxes on everything — on your dog licenses, your excise taxes, your tires. … Everywhere you turn around, there’s another fee just for being a citizen,” protester Paul Pagliaro said.
In addition to decrying the tax policy, individuals criticized various monetary policies as well.
“If we can take the power away from the Federal Reserve and give it back to the people, that’s what I’m in favor of,” Matt Malleo ‘09 said. “I’m here to promote a more honest monetary system where we wouldn’t have inflation rates like we’re seeing now.”
One protester carried a sign that read, “Save trees. Stop printing money.”
Several individuals displayed tea boxes attached to miniature American flags. The protesters were met with mixed reactions and comments by passersby ranging from enthusiastic honks to amused smiles.
Stopped at the red light, one driver poked his head out to express his amusement. “I get that you don’t like taxes, but teabagging? Teabagging? Really?”
On a larger scale, the national “tea party” campaign has been met with criticism from various liberal commentators such as Keith Olbermann ’79 and Rachel Maddow, who humorously mocked the grassroots “teabaggers” on her show.
However, despite the light atmosphere created by the intended humor from the teabag symbolism uniting the “tea party” campaign, the protesters in Ithaca remained focused on the messages they believe are most important: minimal government spending and taxes.
“Everyone [present at the protest], regardless of their situations, is unhappy with paying taxes to fund government spending that will eventually end up being paid for with more taxes,” said Eddie Herron ’09, editor-in-chief of the Cornell Review, who helped organize the demonstration.
While most of the protesters disapproved of the government’s “socialist” policies, some spectators of the “tea party” disagreed.
“Taxes are necessary in countries like the U.S. that have big infrastructure. They fund government projects that allow the U.S. to be the first world country that [people against government spending] want and like to boast about,” Matt Green ’12 said.
By early afternoon, a modest crowd had gathered on the traffic island and joined in the protest. Herron was pleased with the turnout, which he said was impressive despite Ithaca being a liberal town.
“There was a wide variety of conservatives that were a part of the protest today ranging from extreme Libertarians to members of the Christian Reich,” Herron said.
“I’m really happy about the turnout,” Forsythe said. “It’s not about any individual; it’s about us getting together to demonstrate how we feel.”