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Originally published April 15, 2010 at 9:38 PM | Page modified April 16, 2010 at 2:00 PM

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Tea-party supporters rally across state on Tax Day

Across Washington state and around the nation Thursday, tea-party enthusiasts used Tax Day to call for a halt to what speaker after speaker denounced as runaway spending and creeping socialism.

Seattle Times staff reporters

They chanted, they cheered, they waved the flag and they vowed to toss big-spending liberals out of office.

Across Washington state and around the nation Thursday, tea-party enthusiasts used Tax Day to call for a halt to what speaker after speaker denounced as runaway spending and creeping socialism.

"This government is ours. This government is ours," chanted several hundred outside Bellevue City Hall, urged on by conservative-radio personality Mike Siegel.

In Everett, a large contingent marched near the Snohomish County Courthouse, chanting "We will remember come again November."

In Olympia, an estimated 3,000 crowded onto the Capitol steps to advocate less government and lower taxes.

At Seattle's Westlake Park, several hundred people cheered calls for the government to curb spending and for the people to fight for the values espoused by the country's founding fathers.

Despite the tea party's populist themes, state Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz said he believes it represents a fringe movement.

"The tea party is dragging the Republican Party further right, which probably helps Democrats," Pelz said. He said the Democratic Congress is making progress dealing with the "economic mess" it inherited from the Bush administration.

Even before Thursday's rallies began in about 20 Washington cities, handmade signs carried by those arriving made their sentiments known, with taxes and the recently passed national health-care law among the prime targets.

"No to socialism," "We Are the People" and "Born Free, Taxed to Death" read some of the signs carried in Bellevue, where no fewer than seven of the event's nearly 20 speakers said they're running against Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray this fall.

Without endorsing a specific candidate, state Republican Chairman Luke Esser urged the crowd to translate its frustration into political action. "If we want to replace our current tax policies, we have to replace the leaders who created this mess," said Esser. "We're paying too much of our hard-earned money on a bloated, inefficient government."

Senate hopeful Dr. Art Coday of Shoreline pledged to "restore America to a great nation that believes in freedom and liberty first."

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Another Murray challenger, Clint Didier, of Pasco, said, "Government doesn't create wealth, it consumes it. It's not a provider. It's a predator."

James Watkins, of Redmond, a challenger to U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, said, "We the people fell asleep and we outsourced our government to professional politicians. ... It's our time to stand up for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — and limited government."

Rally-goers took literature from the various candidates and signed anti-tax initiatives.

In Olympia, most protest signs called for less government and lower taxes, but a few labeled President Obama as a Muslim or a communist revolutionary.

At Westlake Park, there was plenty of Obama-bashing from the crowd, with yells of "Loser!" and even "Girlie Man!" Others screamed "Bring Bush back," while a small group of counter-demonstrators lined Pine Street, with police officers using bicycles to form a barricade between the two sides.

Amber Gunn of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation addressed the crowd: "America is not inevitable. A society as free and prosperous as ours is an anomaly," she said.

Gunn received a thunderous cheer when she said: "There's no one braver than a capitalist," noting that business owners and entrepreneurs create wealth and opportunity for thousands of others. "While most of the world condemns you, I thank you."

At the Everett event, Patricia Matthison, 70, of Lynnwood, had a sign beside her chair identifying her as a "Proud Member of the Angry Mob."

She said she and her daughter were John McCain supporters in 2008, but she's now looking for fresher, newer candidates. "I'm disillusioned with the radical left-wing liberal Democrats in Congress and in Olympia," she said. "I want my country back."

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report. Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com

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