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Iowa City Tea Party draws diverse crowd


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Julie Bryant stood away from the 200-or-so Tea Party members, sporting a sign proclaiming her distaste for those she calls “racists, homophobes, and hypocrites.” The Navy veteran engaged in a handful of yelling matches with Tea Party supporters on the Pedestrian Mall on Thursday.

Around 300 protesters, counterprotesters, and spectators gathered downtown Thursday for the Tea Party protest.

The event, which coincides with the federal income-tax filing deadline, took place outside Rep. Dave Loebsack’s, D-Iowa, office.

The national media and opponents such as Bryant craft a model of the Tea Party as a movement powered by old white men.

Statistics appear to back this up. The New York Times found in a poll released Thursday that more than 80 percent of those who align with the Tea Party are white, 60 percent are men, and 74 percent are older than 45.

However, attendees at the Iowa City event appeared to represent a slew of demographic categories and points of view — from toddlers and students to Stars-and-Stripes-clad women and a flag-waving World War II veteran.

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Edgar Thornton, one of just a few black Tea Party supporters at the event, dismissed claims that the Tea Party is fueled by resentment of a black president in the White House.

“I don’t think we should bring in the race issue,” he said. “It’s more of an issue of, ‘Where do we find common ground and where can we all work together?’ ”

But that common ground is a scarcity.

The movement doesn’t have a uniform platform, a national committee, or many names on ballots.
In general, Tea Party members oppose large government spending and congressional Democrats like Loebsack.

But beyond that, there are few commonalties among Iowa City’s self-described Tea Partiers.

While a number of attendees donned GOP gear, one Tea Party speaker, University of Iowa student Jeff Shipley, voiced his distrust of Republicans and Democrats alike.

“You have the stupid party on the right and the evil party on the left. Sometimes they do something that’s both stupid and evil; they call that bipartisanship,” he said. “I see no difference between Obama and Bush.”

In contrast, two Republican congressional hopefuls stood at the microphone to preach their vision for a smaller federal government.

“Every time Barack Obama signs a bill, it takes a little bit of your liberty away,” said Rob Gettemy, one of four Republicans aiming to oust Loebsack in November.

Another, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, vowed to break what she called frivolous spending habits in Washington.

“These are deficits and debts they racked up,” she said. “And who’s going to pay? We are.”

Loebsack spokeswoman Sabrina Saddiqui issued a statement about the tax-day demonstration, saying the congressman “welcomes dialogue and discourse from all Iowans” especially during “tough economic times.”

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