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Temecula tax protestors in a 'Don't Tread on Me' mood

April 15, 2009 |  3:26 pm

Hundreds of loud, colorful and occasionally angry protesters carried signs and shouted slogans around Temecula’s duck pond today, as they demonstrated against what they saw as creeping socialism threatening the American way of life.

"BACK AWAY FROM MY WALLET!" screamed one sign, "DON’T TAX ME BRO!" read another. An elderly man wore a blue shirt with "No We Can't!" emblazoned on back, a sharp rebuttal to President Obama’s "Yes We Can" campaign slogan.

People paraded about in colonial attire under a sea of flags, including many that said "Don’t Tread on Me."

Sara Dotson dressed like a Native American and helped people hurl crates of "tea" – actually Styrofoam coolers painted as brown tea chests – into the pond as cameras clicked. She hauled back each chest with a rope.

"The Sons of Liberty dressed like Mohawks for the Boston Tea Party. That’s why I’m wearing this," said 17-year-old Dotson, who chairs a local Republican club for teenagers.

Matthew Solie, 12, grabbed a tea chest. His mother, Laura, crouched to take a photo and gave the signal. The boy let loose – three times.

“I’m tired of our taxes going up,” she said.

“Me too!” declared a smiling Matthew.

Cars drove by, honking madly as protesters crowded one of the busiest street corners in this heavily Republican city in southwest Riverside County.

Speaker after speaker stood up to denounce tax hikes and bailouts in often stark terms.

Bryan Geer, one of the organizers of the event, criticized "more entitlement programs for the miscreants in our society."

"Our president believes in stealing from the productive members of our society to divide up among the unproductive members of our society," he yelled through a loudspeaker.

"Revolution!" shouted one man in the raucous audience.

"Should lazy, selfish people inherit the fruits of my labor?" Geer asked. "No!" Tea bags dangled from hats, glasses, signs, belts and ears.

Many said they had heard about the event through the Internet or from conservative commentators on radio and television. Some complained about media bias in the way the tea party phenomenon has been covered.

"If this protest were supporting the president the media would be out here in droves," said Ray Drozdowski, 57, of Chula Vista. "I don’t see how the White House can ignore all of these protests. Look, you have about 1,000 people out here in Temecula, which is a sleepy town."

Protesters said they came to show their opposition to tax hikes, bailouts and a sense that capitalism was under assault by the current administration. Most pinned the blame on Obama, though many also criticized former President George W. Bush for starting the bailout trend.

"I’ve been fed up for 30 years, and now it seems everyone else has caught up with me,” said Michael Rizzuto, 50, of Wildomar whose sign said "Future Headline: Unborn file for bankruptcy protection." "It’s beyond ridiculous the way they are spending. We need a new word for "irresponsible" because irresponsible doesn’t cover it."

Even in an area that has been among the hardest hit in the nation with foreclosures, there was little sympathy for helping those struggling with home payments.

Viviana McDonald, 39, of Temecula waited for her chance to toss a tea chest into the pond. Like many here, she owes more than her house is worth and says her family eats a lot of beans and rice to economize.

“We are all upside down, but we want to pay our mortgage,” she said. “We don’t want our neighbors to pay it.”

She heard about the event from watching Sean Hannity on Fox. Her friend Michele Baloun, 41, handed out pamphlets in her neighborhood publicizing the event. She said she used to be a Democrat before she “educated herself.”

“When Obama was running for president, he promised to go line by line through the budget and cut out pork,” said Baloun, wearing knee-high black boots and carrying a huge American flag. “He didn’t do it. He lied.”

--David Kelly