Chicago Anti-Tax Tea Party

By Kevin Robinson in News on Apr 16, 2009 1:40PM

April 15 saw hundreds of protesters descend on Chicago's Federal Plaza to ostensibly demonstrate against what they perceive as the expansion of government and its attendant intrusion in their private lives.

Although smaller tea party protests have been going on around the United States since Barack Obama assumed the presidency, CNBC commentator Rick Santelli gets the credit for starting the idea of nationwide Tea Party protests (harkening back to the Revolutionary-era Boston Tea Party). In fact, just hours after his initial comments from the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, a series of websites began to appear, organizing Tea Party protests. Santelli's original idea was to have the protests happen on July 4; as more and more conservative activists picked up on the idea of organizing a mass, national protest, April 15, the Internal Revenue Service's filing deadline for individual taxpayers, quickly became the date of the protests.

While protests around the nation, (Chicago included) were largely filled with conservative voters and right wing supporters, state and national Republican leadership were conspicuously absent from the demonstrations. Although the Naperville protest included Hinsdale Republican Rep. Judy Biggert, Naperville state Rep. Darlene Senger, and City Councilman Doug Krause, the more visible (and larger) Chicago protest was absent any elected officials. In fact, the entire "Tea Party Movement" has been a source of discomfort for many mainstream conservative officials. Most national Republicans, including party regulars like Senate minority leader Mitch McConnelland House minority whip Eric Cantor were careful not to schedule any public appearances Wednesday. And while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal sent out an email promoting the Tea Party protests, he didn't attend one. And therein lies one of the major disconnects between mainstream Republicans and grassroots conservative activists: how involved does the party want to be in this movement?

The protests, promoted extensively by Fox News and organized through conservative talk radio and right wing lobbying organizations, run the risk of whipping up a base of activists that could do more harm to the GOP than help. Ignoring them may leave the party vulnerable to charges that current leadership isn't responsive to their base.

(Ed. Note: There are many more photos of yesterday's Tea Bag Protests in our Chicagoist Photos Flickr Pool. — CS)