As the deadline for sending in federal and state taxes looms, so does this year's edition of Boise Tea Party's Tax Day Rally. Russ Smerz and and Gina Egusquiva are in charge of coordinating the day's activities on April 15 for Tea Party Boise. They said there will be differences between last year's rally and what is to be expected from this year's event. The event begins at 10:30 a.m. in Julia Davis Park.
One thing that rally-goers may notice is the absence of local politicians, at least on the stage. Smerz said that many lawmakers from across the state called the event organizers to try to get on stage for a speech, but they were all turned away because, as he said, they don't represent the essence of the movement.
"We thought it was better to get people off the street," said Smerz. "These people have something to say."
Those who plan on attending the event might also notice more protesters, said Smerz and Egusquiza. The duo said they know there are groups, including a number of students from Boise State University, who are planning to counter-protest the rally, but that is OK with them.
"They have a right to protest just like we do," said Smerz. "Hopefully they'll be peaceful." The two said that the organization plans to have a small security team on hand to ensure public safety and will also have video recording going on during the event in case things do get out of hand. Egusquiza said that at past events, if there were protesters with offensive signs, event leaders would organize volunteers with signs that said "Not with us" to stand next to them to protect the integrity of its Tea Party membership.
A different and more negative attitude about the woman often billed as the figurehead of the Tea Party movement might also be something to notice when protesters gather on April 15. When asked about Sarah Palin, often cast as the head of the Tea Party, and her endorsement of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who many involved in tea parties see as too moderate, Smerz said there was a "general disappointment" among the membership of the group about the move by Palin. Egusquiza said that many members, including herself, saw the endorsement as a part of the "good 'ol boy network," which Palin often decries in speeches.
Some aspects of the Tax Day Rally will remain the same, however. The event will feature several re-enactments of political leaders of the past, namely Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry, and will also feature singing of patriotic songs. Activities begin at Julia Davis Park in downtown Boise and, after an hour and a half of speeches, songs, and other activities, the group will march to Capitol Park, where the speeches and singing will continue.
Smerz and Egusquiza believe the makeup of the group will be similar to what was seen last year; that is, "middle class working Americans." The two said that there is still genuine anger in the ranks of the organization over "socialist" and "entitlement" policies of the federal government and that they believe the group that assembles this year is likely to have the same attitude of those who gathered last year.
"We don't like what they're doing to our country - all of them," said Egusquiza, expressing the sentiment that she said is common in the group. Smerz said that Tea Party Boise, which conducted a survey to find out the highest-ranking concerns of members, continues to focus on the three that came in ranked as the most problematic by membership: excessive spending by the federal government, government intrusion in the personal lives, and government corruption. Other than that, Egusquiza said, views of membership can vary greatly.
"His views are not my views," said Egusquiza, while pointing at Smerz. Egusquiza said her main concern is illegal immigration.
Some have accused those within the Tea Party of being racist and opposing the policies of the Obama administration simply because he is a African-American. Not true, say Smerz and Egusquiza. They said that during their involvement with the group, the focal point of the anger has been on Congress, and more specifically Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. When asked why some in the media paint Tea Party organizations as racist, Smerz believes that "they're ignorant" and that "they just don't understand our group." Egusquiza said that she believes that the movement is made up of average Americans who have spent their time behind the TV or at their kids' baseball games, and that those who paint the racist picture of the movement do so out of fear.
"I think they're scared of us," said Egusquiza.