Thousands to launch tea-party protest against govt. spending

Tens of thousands of conservative activists are preparing to descend on the nation's capital Saturday for a rowdy tea-party style protest, event planners say.

About 30,000 have signed up on the event's website to attend the march and rally and oppose what they call excessive government spending, says Adam Brandon, spokesman for FreedomWorks, a group that supports lower taxes and less government. Former House majority leader, Republican Dick Armey, is the organization's chairman.

More may show, Brandon says, and at least 450 tour buses will bring protesters from around the country.

Both the U.S. Capitol Police and the U.S. Park Police say they're boosting staffing for the event. They decline to provide crowd estimates.

"We're expecting a pretty big crowd," says Sgt. David Schlosser, U.S. Park Police spokesman, adding that he believes the event will be comparable to "the majority of our First Amendment activities, which we do on a routine basis."

FreedomWorks planned the rally, but many groups are participating, including the National Taxpayers Union and Tea Party Patriots. The event has caught fire online via e-mail campaigns and on social networking sites such as Facebook.

Protesters' concerns include health care, the economic stimulus, car company bailouts and the climate change bill, says Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks.

"People are telling me two things: 'I've never done this before,' and 'I've never even talked to my congressman, but I have to show up because our government is out of control,' " Kibbe says.

Ilyse Hogue, spokeswoman for the liberal network MoveOn.org, calls the protesters "an extremely vocal minority" who resort to shouting people down instead of engaging in reasonable debate.

"They are completely out of step with where the majority of people in this country want to go," she adds. "Instead of shouting down elected representatives and their fellow citizens who have ideas about how to move forward, they should probably get in the discussion about what we can do to solve the health care crisis, the economic crisis and the energy crisis."

Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck has encouraged people to participate and will broadcast live Saturday from Washington. Mark Williams, another conservative talk show host, is riding the Tea Party Express, a 34-city, 7,000-mile bus tour that began in Sacramento on Aug. 28 and ends in the capital Saturday.

When the Tea Party Patriots held their first nationwide rally in February, organizers said 30,000 people showed. Over the summer, the movement gained momentum with the town hall health care meetings that were punctuated by passionate outbursts over what protesters call "Obama care."

Saturday's rally will mark another step in the movement's growth, Brandon says. "This will be the largest gathering of fiscal conservatives that we've ever had in the nation's capital," he says.

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