Tea Party Activists Rally at Capitol, Around Montana

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Activists smashed cardboard boxes in a nod to the original Boston Tea Party as tax-day rallies were held Thursday in front of the state Capitol and elsewhere in Montana.

More than 150 tea party activists, political candidates and curious onlookers gathered in front of the Capitol to wave American flags and hoist signs with messages like “Go Green, Recycle Congress” and “Don’t Tread on Me.”

It was one of hundreds of rallies protesters organized across the nation to coincide with the April 15 federal tax filing deadline. Crowds also turned out for rallies in Billings and Bozeman.

Petitioners, candidates and conservative groups like the John Birch Society circulated among the crowd and set up booths to distribute pamphlets and videos.

A handful of speakers, mostly political candidates or their spokeswomen, gave speeches exhorting political leaders to respect the U.S. Constitution or condemning the recently passed health-care legislation. The speakers ranged from a self-described housewife running for the state Legislature to a spokeswoman for Montana’s lone congressman, Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, whose seat also is up for election this fall.

Alan Hale, a state House candidate, drew cheers by accusing Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer and state Attorney General Steve Bullock of playing partisan politics in their decision not to join a lawsuit with other states challenging the constitutionality of the health-care overhaul.

“If they won’t protect you, they don’t need to be there,” Hale said.

Bullock has said his office reviewed the lawsuit and didn’t think it had much merit nor much of a chance of legal success.

At the height of the rally, organizers invited the crowd to grab an empty cardboard box, write on it a concern or complaint, explain that complaint at the microphone and then throw the box out to the audience to smash underfoot.

Organizers said the action was meant to symbolize the 1773 Boston Tea Party, when activists boarded ships and threw their cargo of English tea into Boston Harbor in an act of protest against taxes.