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Protesters are 'tea'd off at stimulus and Obama

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 27, 2009 - The muddy Mississippi got a little browner Friday, as tears came to this reporter's eye.

Just before noon more than 200 people began dumping tea into the chilly river. The Coast Guard kept watch a few hundred feet away as adults and children shared caffeine - or herbs - with the catfish and occasionally sprinkled in insults at President Obama.

Held at the foot of the Arch steps on Wharf Street in downtown St. Louis the tea party was created in response to the comments of Rick Santelli of CNBC.

During CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Feb. 19, Santelli called for the president to do an online survey to see if people want to "subsidize the losers' mortgages." He said the government is promoting bad behavior.

Santelli then said he was organizing a Chicago Tea Party in July for all the capitalists to dump tea into Lake Michigan.

St. Louis dumped first.

A cross-section of conservatives, conservative radio listeners and media showed in the near-freezing weather. With bullhorn-wielding speakers extolling their cause, the group took up nearly half of the steps to the Arch.

The crowd broke out into patriotic song early on, booed mention of liberal politicians and one protester yelled out "freedom" in his best Braveheart impersonation.

Clothed in a blue colonial-style dress lined with brass buttons Desiree Szal said she learned about the protest from the news. "I'm tired of handouts and bailouts," Szal said.

Others heard about the event from conservative radio.

Charter pilot Charles Hoffman was listing to KFTM 97.1 when he learned about the protest. "I'm trying to take a position. We are being taxed too much." Hoffman said.

Hoffman said he flies for many wealthy conservative clients who have been affected by the economy. He suggested that the government should lower taxes to help stimulate the economy. "Give more money to the people. Tax and Spend is not gonna work," Hoffman said.

Handing out fliers at the protest were members of Campaign For Liberty. According to member Kelly Owens, Campaign For Liberty is a group that evolved from the Ron Paul campaign. There are around 300 members in the St. Louis area.

Campaign For Liberty District Coordinator Robyn Hamlin said that people where angry about their money and how it is being spent. "If I can't afford something I downsize."

People from all over the area came to the tea party, like Don Huston from Dittmer, Mo.

Huston watched and listened quietly during the protest. He has been working as a carpenter for 29 years, but has been laid off for the last six weeks. It is the longest time Huston has been unemployed.

Although he brought no tea to the party, Huston came because he wanted to make his presence felt. "I do think some of the things they are doing will probably help, like making money available for building," Huston said. But he added, "There is way too much money going places I don't agree with."

After about 45 minutes of speeches, protesters headed down to the river to dump the tea, being careful not to throw in the tea bags.

This is when the protest brought tears to my eyes. It was not because of the difficulties that many Americans such as Huston are suffering.

Yes, I do feel for them. But the tears were from the tea flying through the air and ending up in my eye. Twenty mentions later, I could yell "freedom" because my contacts were finally clean.

Brett Lohmeyer is an intern with the St. Louis Beacon and a student at St. Louis Community College - Meramec.