Some people wore their tea bags hanging from umbrellas or eyeglasses. Others simply tossed them on the White House lawn.
Wednesday’s deadline for filing income tax returns offered some Americans a timely excuse to vent their frustrations as demonstrators attended more than 750 Tax Day tea parties in cities like Boston, Washington, East Hampton, N.Y., and Yakima, Wash.
The events were meant to protest government spending, particularly the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package and its $3.5 trillion budget.
Although organizers insisted they had created a nonpartisan grass-roots movement, others argued that these parties were more of the Astroturf variety: an occasion largely created by the clamor of cable news and fueled by the financial and political support of current and former Republican leaders.
Fox News covered the events all day with reporters and hosts at the scenes. Neil Cavuto, a Fox host, and Michelle Malkin, a conservative contributor, headlined the protests in Sacramento while Sean Hannity broadcast his show from the protests in Atlanta.
The Web site TaxDayTeaParty.com listed its sponsors, including FreedomWorks, a group founded by Dick Armey, the former House majority leader; Top Conservatives on Twitter; and RFCRadio.com.
The idea for the demonstrations grew in part out of a blast from Rick Santelli, a CNBC commentator who on Feb. 19 at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange said that the Obama administration was promoting “bad behavior” in helping people who were at risk of losing their homes and that Americans should protest with a tea party in Chicago.
The clip inspired earlier protests in cities like Cincinnati, Green Bay, Wis., and Harrisburg, Pa.
The main goal as a national organization, said Eric Odom, the administrator of the Tax Day Tea Party Web site, “is just to facilitate an environment where a new movement would be born.”
It was hard to determine from the moderate turnout just how effective the parties would be. In Philadelphia, a rally in Center City drew about 200 rain-soaked participants.
Several hundred people showed up in Lafayette Park opposite the White House, until the park and parts of Pennsylvania Avenue were cleared while a robot retrieved what the Secret Service confirmed was a box of tea bags.
In Pensacola, Fla., about 500 protesters lined a busy street, some waving “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and carrying signs reading “Got Pork?” and “D.C.: District of Corruption.”
In Austin, Tex., Gov. Rick Perry energized a crowd of about 1,000 by accusing the Obama administration of restricting states’ rights and vaguely suggesting that Texas might want to secede from the union.
In downtown Houston, there were some in the crowd of 2,000 that poured into the Jesse H. Jones Plaza who also wanted Texas to secede. They were joined by other conservative groups like anti-abortion activists, Libertarians and fiscally conservative Republicans. American flags abounded, along with hand-painted placards that bore messages like “Abolish the I.R.S.,” “Less Government More Free Enterprise,” “We Miss Reagan” and “Honk if You Are Upset About Your Tax Dollars Being Spent on Illegal Aliens.”
Paul Sommer, 41, of Humble, Tex., said he came out because he feared the country was drifting toward socialism under President Obama. “I don’t agree with them taking my money,” he said. “I’m a small-business owner. I don’t want them taking everything.”
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah, a Republican, was booed in Salt Lake City for accepting about $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money, and in Alaska, hundreds of people held signs and chanted “No more spending,” The Associated Press reported.
Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, urged people in New York to tell their lawmakers “we’re going to fire you” unless they vote against big spending, The A.P. reported.
In Boston, the birthplace of the original tea party, the protest was on Boston Common, near the State House. The crowd, initially about 500, grew throughout the day.
“I’m not happy with the way our government is managing our taxes,” said Jo Ouimete, 54, of Northampton, Mass., who was holding an umbrella with an American flag pattern, even though the sun was shining. The umbrella had a tea pot on top and Red Rose tea bags hanging from it.
“The American taxpayers are really getting pressed too hard,” Ms. Ouimete said. “We can’t live like this, and our kids can’t live like this.”
Some participants were dressed in colonial garb, including Paul Jehle, of the Plymouth Rock Foundation, who is also a professional Boston tour guide. Mr. Jehle offered his enthusiastic audience a history lesson about the 1773 Boston Tea Party.
The only organization in Boston re-enacting the original tea party — a gay rights group — was not associated with the other demonstrations.
Its protest was that in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, married same-sex couples cannot file joint federal tax returns.