By SANDRA K. REABUCK
Hundreds of people of people turned out Saturday afternoon in Johnstown’s Central Park for a “tea party” protesting big government and excessive taxes.
The grassroots-organized rally was modeled after national demonstrations that took place Wednesday. The theme was built around the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when American colonists dumped chests of tea off ships in Boston harbor to protest taxes imposed by Britain’s King George III.
Michele Trevorrow of Southmont, one of the organizers, said she was thrilled that so many people participated.
“I’m ecstatic. I was hoping that we’d get at least 50, and look at this,” she said, pointing to the crowd.
Although billed as a bipartisan event, it appeared to be a mostly Republican crowd when one of the speakers asked for a show of hands from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
Organizers said that about 500 small booklets containing the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence were handed out during the event.
Dozens of red, white and blue flags provided a festive, patriotic atmosphere.
Speakers ripped into the federal government’s huge stimulus package, the bailouts of Wall Street bankers and the growing debt that will burden future generations of Americans.
Herb Ewald of Southmont said that it’s a time “of awakening to what is happening in the U.S.A. We’ve been silent too long. We’ve got to grow this organization. We need to be more visible and more vocal.”
Fearing that America is headed down a road to socialism, Monika Mullen of Richland Township, a former postal worker and German immigrant, said, “It’s time to let the government know enough is enough. No more spending. Don’t sell us short; don’t apologize for us.”
Mullen said she came to America 30 years ago ”with a suitcase and a lot of dreams.”
She said that she is a permanent resident and hopes to become a citizen soon.
Craig Minnick, an Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, said policies of President Barack Obama and members of Congress are “an attack against liberty and the Constitution.”
They are exceeding the powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution, he contended.
The “oppressive taxation and unfettered spending by the government,” Minnick predicted, “will lead to economic collapse if unchecked.”
A Hooversville resident, retired contractor Ed McGarvey, 62, said that he turned out for the “tea party” to “support my fellow Americans and protest big government, socialism and taxes.”
A couple of tea bags were pinned to his cap, and McGarvey was carrying a hand-printed sign proclaiming, “Stop socialism.”
Annie Pritts of the Davidsville area, carrying a sign saying “God Help America,” said she showed up because “of taxation, and we’re citizens, not subjects (of a monarchy).”
Lisa Popovnak of Richland Township volunteered at a booth, handing out booklets and urging people to sign a long roll of brown wrapping paper attached to a copy of the Constitution. It will be delivered to Washington, she said.
A mother of three and a registered nurse, Popovnak said that she is concerned about the impact of government debt on her children.
“We need fiscal responsibility,” she said.