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Apr 22, 2009 4:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hundreds protest taxes in Riverhead

Apr 22, 2009 4:36 PM

More than 500 people, some from as far as Oceanside, rallied for lower taxes and overall governmental change along the Peconic River in Riverhead on Wednesday, April 15, the deadline for filing federal income tax returns.

The rally was called a “Tea Party” and was held on tax day in order to drive home how high taxes are and how little control Americans have over how their tax money is spent, organizers of the event explained.

The Glenn Beck Meet Up Group, a fan club for the Fox News commentator based on the website Meetup.com, and the Riverhead supporters of the American Family Association, a non-profit organization that promotes conservative Christian values, organized the event, which was held in Riverhead’s municipal parking lot, along the Peconic River.

Bob Meyer of Riverhead, the leader of the Glenn Beck Meet Up Group, said that he and other members of the group had been working on organizing the Tea Party for about a month.

“We’re very concerned with the absolutely out-of-control government spending and taxation,” Mr. Meyer said. “We were expecting 100 people, so anything over 200 is good.”

Many of the attendees at the event had tea bags pinned to their clothing. One man had at least five attached to his hat. The tea bags represent the event’s connection to the Boston Tea Party, during which American colonists threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor to protest what they saw as Britain’s unfair taxing of the colonies.

Martin Keller, the chairman of the Riverhead Republican Party who is also involved in the American Family Association, said that he participated in the event because he is “anti-tax” and against “big spending by the government.”

“We’re protesting the government. It’s running businesses, but businesses should be running themselves,” Mr. Keller said. “We want to end bailouts.”

One tax Mr. Keller took particular exception to is the estate tax, which President Barack Obama is reportedly planning to keep. Mr. Keller explained that former President George W. Bush had decided to abolish the estate or “death” tax by next year, but said that Mr. Obama is angling to reinstate it for perpetuity.

According to published reports, Mr. Obama is hoping to keep the estate tax at its current level, so that estates of up to $3.5 million for a single person and up to $7 million for couples would be exempt from taxation when they are transferred to another person. Estates above those figures would be taxed at 45 percent.

“We spend too much in taxes,” Mr. Keller said.

Symbols of the Republican Party were present at the rally. Many vehicles in the parking lot featured “Ron Paul for President” bumper stickers. Mr. Paul, a Congressman from Texas, hoped to be named the presidential nominee by the Republican party in the 2008 election. He supports the rights of gun owners and advocated for a small-sized government, tighter security on the Mexico-U.S. border and the elimination of welfare benefits for undocumented workers.

Some organizers were handing out small American flags and many attendees waved Gadsden Flags, a bright-yellow flag featuring a curled rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” Mr. Meyer explained that the flag symbolizes dissent and was first used during the American revolution, when the Americans were against being taxed without representation in the English parliament.

“The people will not be taken advantage of. Politicians will be thrown out of government,” Mr. Meyer said.

John Galla of Wading River, who wore a jacket emblazoned with an American flag, had a “Don’t Tread on Me” sign he made himself. It read “Join or Die” on the top, and featured the rattlesnake inscribed with the areas of Riverhead, Wading River, Northville, Calverton, Baiting Hollow, Polish Town, Jamesport and Laurel. Under that, the sign read “A little rebellion now and then—that can be a good thing.”

“The most endangered species in this country is the taxpayers,” Mr. Galla said.

While Mr. Galla attended the protest to decry taxes, he said he is in favor of taxing the government. He said that a 90-percent tax rate on the salaries earned by Congressmen should be instituted.

“This is a good event to show solidarity,” Mr. Galla said about the event Thursday.

Taxes weren’t the only complaint aired at the Tea Party. President Barack Obama was the target of many of the attendees.

“I feel like I’ve been sold a bill of goods by a used car salesman,” said Charles Fazio of Oceanside, who also said that there is a lack of transparency in the government.

Others present at the event said that they came out of concern for future generations—those who they say will have to pay off the debt created by the stimulus.

“I’m concerned for my children. I have five kids,” said Mr. Meyer’s wife, Mary. “I want them to be able to get a job and not be taxed at 20 to 50 percent.”

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Well, what a surprise.

Legitimate, straightforward journalism, not an op-ed in disguise. I can name about ...oh, say, 300 "reporters" (not to mention CNN Twinkie Susan Roesgen) who could learn from your reporter.

Nice job ... I was there and that was a fair, accurate representation.
By Garyj (1), Aquebogue on Apr 21, 09 3:32 PM
Eight years of massive government spending and tax breaks to the rich and now, with the biggest tax break in American history coming down the pike, they protest. Delusional. Seriously.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Apr 21, 09 6:38 PM
You just have to laugh when working class Americans support tax policy that favors the rich at their own expense.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Apr 21, 09 9:11 PM
the two comments above me sum this up pretty perfectly. what is wrong with these idiots? they need to stop watching fox news.
By PJC (5), Westhampton on Apr 21, 09 10:43 PM
What exactly is the stimulus Noah & peoplefirst? How is that going to get repaid? Through taxes!
Why reduce the size of government, just increase it.....which increases costs necessary to operate the machine.....which increases taxes.

Name calling gets you nowhere pjc.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Apr 22, 09 3:19 PM
Peoplefirst, Noah Way & PJC, I think the three of you all summed it up here. This is nothing more than a Fox News stunt, and a stupid one at that.

As for Ridiculous, we don't have to name call, your user name says it all!
By RealLocal (76), Bridgehampton on Apr 22, 09 3:32 PM
These protestors are absolutely right. Our government is irresponsible with money. OUR money. WE are paying for these gargantuan bailouts and stimulus packages while the govt continues to run a record deficit. The solution is SPEND LESS. What a radical concept. Raising taxes on ANYONE (rich or poor) will only FEED Washington's disease, not cure it. Can you imagine if the govt actually SAVED money? It's possible to do. If we would just get out the pruning shears and cut our bloated govt down to size. ...more
By Blackjordan (15), Sag Harbor on Apr 23, 09 11:58 PM
BTW, Bush is pretty guilty as well. He was not a fiscal conservative, sadly.
By Blackjordan (15), Sag Harbor on Apr 24, 09 12:00 AM