Thousands of conservative protesters from across the country converged on the Capitol Saturday morning to demonstrate against President Obama's proposals for health care reform and voicing opposition to big government, what they say is over-the-top spending.
Carrying signs depicting President Obama as Adolf Hitler and the Joker, and chanting slogans such as "'No big government" and "Obamacare makes me sick," approximately 60,000 to 70,000 people flooded Pennsylvania Ave, according to the Washington DC Fire Department.
Organized by FreedomWorks, a conservative activist group led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, many of the protestors were affiliated with the Tea Party movement, grassroots demonstrations that began across the country last spring to protest Democratic tax policies, and government bailouts of the banking and auto industries.
"Mr. Obama, you try to instill socialism into this country. Our message to you is "No you can't," said Debby Dooley, a Georgia woman who riffed on Obama's "Yes We Can" campaign slogan.
As he left Washington this morning aboard the Marine One helicopter, President Obama flew over the crowds forming near the Capitol. But as the protests continued, President Obama's own ralley was already under way in Minneapolis.
Firing up a sympathetic crowd of 15,000 in Minneapolis, Obama pitched his plan for a government-run health care option and reiterated many of the points he made in a Tuesday speech to a joint session of Congress.
Obama said that with a public option "no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the coverage that you need."
In Washington, the crowd pounced on Obama's absence.
"Our president ran to Minnesota to get away from us. Let's let him hear us in Minnesota," Ashley Kenny, a student from Valdosta State in Georgia, told the crowd.
Galvanized by the Democratic control of the White House and the Congress and a perceived lack of Republican leadership, only a handful of GOP lawmakers were among the crowd.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., also spoke at the rally. DeMint said he'd had enough of "Alice in Wonderland" politicians promising more programs at the risk of financial disaster.
"The president has warned us if we disagree with him he's going to call us out," DeMint said. "Well, Mr. President, we are out."
Many of the protesters made a rallying cry of Rep. Joe Wilson's, R-S.C., impromptu comment during Obama's speech to Congress Tuesday, shouting, "You lie! You lie!"
Wilson's outburst and today's protests cap a summer of simmering conservative outrage, punctuated by a number of angry town halls around the country in which Democratic lawmakers were assailed for their support of the president's healthcare agenda.