Ideologies Collide at Chicago Tea Party Rally

Organizers have asked members to tone down the fringe talk

By Anthony Ponce, Andrew Greiner and BJ Lutz
|  Thursday, Apr 15, 2010  |  Updated 6:03 PM CDT
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Chants of

Chants of "Repeal and Replace" emanated from Daley Plaza on Thursday as thousands of tea partiers protested what they feel is invasive government.

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A National Tea Party rally that converged on Daley Plaza on this Tax Day was, for the most part, a rally for less government and lower taxes, but there were also some tense moments and a number of complaints about some of the imagery on display.

One sign that read "Arrest Bush" was left tattered after it was held up in the middle of Thursday's conservative rally.

"I was attacked from behind and mysign got stomped on and demolished," said Peter McMahon.

In the chaos afterward, Tea Party members tried to quell the situation, with one man yelling, "This is a trap! This is a trap," believing McMahon was planted in the crowd to start a fight and purposely try to make the movement look hot-headed and radical.

"This movement is about responsibility, not anger or anything else that's out of context," explained Alan Skillicorn.

Sensitive that poor public perception could sink their movement, some rally planners have uninvited controversial speakers, beefed up security and urged participants to pack cameras to capture evidence of any disrupters.

Still, signs that portrayed President Barack Obama as a Marxist or as part of the "Axis of Evil" didn't sit well with some observers.

"Some have a valid point, but you got a couple others like, 'Barry Nobama Hates America and Hates You Too,' and I don't think that really helps raise the level of conversation very much," said one man.

Speakers at the rally were quick to point out that signs like those were the exception, not the rule.

The Chicago rally is part of a national movement aimed at tax day, the same day the original tea party movement emerged. Rallies were held in as many as 2,000 towns and cities, including Joliet, Naperville, and Champaign.

Organizers want to project a peaceful image of people upset by what they consider to be a growing and burdensome federal government.

"We don't want to be misrepresented, whether it's by someone who is not part of the group and has their own agenda, or whether it's by some fringe extremist who may actually be a racist," said Jim Hoft, a political blogger and tea party activist who is one of the speakers for a rally in suburban St. Louis.

Among the speakers at the Chicago rally was Kathy Barkulis, who morphed into a national figure when a video of her getting into a scrap with CNN reporter Susan Rosen at last year's Chicago Tax Day Tea Party blew up on the Internet.

Other speakers included:

  • Adam Andrzejewski, Reformer & Transparency Advocate
  • John O'Hara, Author of "A New American Tea Party"
  • Joe Calomino, Americans for Prosperity
  • John Tillman, Illinois Policy Institute
  • Kristina Rasmussen, Illinois Policy Institute
  • Joe Walsh, Candidate for U.S. Congress, IL-8
  • David Ratowitz, Candidate for U.S. Congress, IL-5
  • William Kelly, Reform Chicago Now

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