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Originally published Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 7:21 PM

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No rainout for tea partyers

An anniversary "tea party" rally drew about 250 people to a rainy corner in Northgate Saturday afternoon. Not bad for Seattle, or as one participant called it, "Lib-Ville."

Seattle Times staff reporter

An anniversary "tea party" rally drew about 250 people to a rainy corner in Northgate on Saturday afternoon. Not bad for Seattle, or as one participant called it, "Lib-Ville."

"You really do pick up new people because conservatives or libertarians, or whatever you want to call people, are in the minority here. They tend to be kind of under the radar," said Keli Carender, a Seattle adult-education teacher who is credited with starting the national tea-party movement a year ago. "There actually are a lot more of us than most of us knew."

As tea-party activists lined the sidewalk along an intersection at the edge of the Northgate Mall parking lot, some passers-by honked. More kept their windows rolled up, gawking through the drizzle at protesters waving "Don't Tread On Me" flags and anti-tax posters.

Carender organized a Seattle "Porkulus protest" against the stimulus bill in Congress a year ago on Presidents Day.

The idea caught on, and the first round of national Tea Party protests followed Feb. 27, 2009, and since then conservatives across the country have taken to the streets and joined the populist tea-party movement.

In Seattle, the movement's events are something of a coming-out exercise.

"Normal, everyday people are frustrated," said Carender. "It's good, politically, to show that we're not afraid to stand up anymore."

As a sport-utility vehicle driver honked and waved, JoAnn Bonallo, of Lynnwood, said, "I think it's just important that people know that there's other people with like thoughts."

Her husband, John, wants the public and media to understand the movement. "This is actually a grass-roots, pure American movement that exemplifies what this country was founded on," he said.

Participants hemmed and hawed about whether they were willing to have their names in the newspaper. Doug and Linda Larsen retired to Vashon Island six years ago. They get along with their more-liberal neighbors, but "We don't talk politics much," he said.

Doug Larsen is a retired power-plant operator from California. He supported Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for president, and he and his wife both wore National Rifle Association T-shirts to the rally; he waved an American flag.

They oppose abortion because of their religious beliefs, and they attended their first tea-party event last year after paying their taxes, they said. But they're perhaps most passionate about the tea-party movement's common ground: the size of government.

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"Government is too big and it's too intrusive," said Doug Larsen. "It needs to be ramped back to the original image of the Constitution."

Up and down the sidewalk, that sentiment prevailed. Overspending by government irks Kathy Larsen, of Kent.

"And stay out of my health care," she added. "Stay out of my freaking health care."

A sign bore the query, "How long until we run out of other people's money?"

Rain soaked those who rallied, but they rallied on with umbrellas, hats and rain jackets. One man seated across from the Ross store played a bugle, giving the tea party a military soundtrack.

"I'm 90," read his protest sign. "Don't tax me to death."

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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