Citizens frustrated with government spending, taxes, and debt rallied in front of East Hampton Town Hall on Friday, celebrating the traditional tax day with a Tea Party protest, one of many across the country.
Cars honked in support from time to time, and the brisk weather did not prevent the 10 or 15 activists from making their voices heard.
Lynda Edwards, the leader of a local tea party group that organized the rally, said it was her third consecutive annual event, and said she was "sick of the taxes, overspending, and the national debt -- it's out of control."
Indeed, a sense of loss of control -- of losing a grip on the future of an increasingly diverse and polarized country -- pervaded among those present.
Elaine Kohl, a Southampton resident and member of the Suffolk County Coalition and the Citizens Forum, was more concerned about immigration and security issues, as well as cultural ones. She said she is focused on "securing our communities and quality of life. Washington has lost sight of us, and we find ourselves at a crossroads." She said she was frustrated by an emerging disrespect for American culture, and considered it a duty to "honor the past in order to define the future."
Signs with slogans like "Spread your own wealth, Bozo" referred to President Barack Obama and his economic agenda. "Socialist" was the most common label used to refer to those in government, though it was not just the federal government that people were concerned about. Rising property and school taxes earned repeated mention, as well.
Pat Flynn, another attendee, said she had joined the tea party and 9/12 project, the brainchild of Fox News commentator Glenn Beck. She had been a member of the New York Conservative Party, but was dissatisfied with its current direction. An ardent fan of Ayn Rand and her objectivist, libertarian philosophy, Ms. Flynn pointed to President Obama as not having created this problem, but as having made it worse. She was also frustrated with what she said was a provision in "Obamacare," or the federal health care overall, that pays for abortion.
"If you can't find a ditch to dig in 99 weeks," you should not continue to receive unemployment benefits," Ms. Flynn said, concerned that free-riders were taking advantage of government services.
East Hampton, at the local level, under Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, was seen as flawed, but "at least they're trying," Ms. Flynn added. "They were left with one hell of a mess," she concluded, referring to the financial misconduct of former Town Supervisor Bill McGintee. Mr. Wilkinson honked and gave a friendly wave to the crowd when he passed by.
Turnout and passion seemed to have ebbed from this time last year. Ironically, this may be due to successes in winning seats in Congress and getting the Tea Party national recognition. These particular activists were instrumental in very nearly unseating Democratic Representative Tim Bishop, who won reelection by a tiny margin last fall.