Locals protest taxes with tea party

BY TESSA McLEAN | APRIL 16, 2009 7:34 AM

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For millions of Americans, April 15 is the dreaded tax day. But for hundreds of people who filled the Burlington Street bridge Wednesday, the day meant a protest against taxes locally and nationwide.

In a re-enactment of the historic Boston Tea Party (sort of), residents wearing white T-shirts with “Ax the Tax” in bold red lettering or clothing gathered to encourage Iowa City community members to vote “No” to a proposed 1 percent local-option sales tax next month.

But for many the movement was more than just protesting the Iowa City tax.

Coralville resident Don Hartvigsen said he came out to support the national movement and advocate against what he labeled high taxes nationwide.

“This movement is representative of the whole country,” the 78-year-old said. “Right now we are the vocal minority, and hopefully we can become the vocal majority.”

At three different times between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., protesters symbolically dumped buckets of water labeled “tea” into the Iowa River. Some supporters passed out tea bags with tabs stamped “Vote No.”

Event co-organizer Debra Derksen, decorated with “Ax the Tax” buttons and dressed in a bright orange and brown coat with matching hat, wielded a large megaphone encouraging participants to remember taxes do not solve the problem.

“I am tired of seeing excessive spending,” she said holding her dog who was decorated with a blue bandana and red ribbon. “They are trying to change ‘In God we trust’ to ‘In greed we trust.’ ”

The Iowa City resident of 15 years said the people present were concerned citizens — not just Republicans, but Democrats as well.

According to the headquarters for the national Tea Party, which recognizes events around the country on April 15, 10 Iowa cities registered with times for demonstrations.

UI students also came to the protest — some stating the tax means more to them because they’re going to be the ones paying the taxes in the end.

“We are literally going to have to foot the bill,” said UI junior Grant Baker, a business-management major.

UI senior Jason Downs said he was impressed at the turnout.

“This stands for how mad people really are about this spending bill,” he said. “We are going to have to pay over $100,000 alone in interest. It’s absolutely ridiculous, so I hope politicians take notice.”

People waved signs reading “Free market, not free loaders” and “Don’t take my piggy bank” back and forth, and others encouraged passing drivers to “Honk if you’ve been taxed enough already.”
Some protesters used the event to show opposition to abortion rights and the recent legalization of gay marriage in Iowa.

Jay and Mary Honeck said they oppose the local tax, claiming it hurts their small business when tax money goes toward larger competitors such as the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center or the Sheraton Hotel.

“There are federal funds coming — they don’t need to tax us more,” Mary Honeck said. “It is going to hurt the people that can’t afford it most; it is going to hurt every single mom who has to buy their kid a pair of shoes.”

The election for the 1 percent local-option sales tax in Iowa City is May 5, but early voting is also available.

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