Tea Party members hold rallies nationwide

Local Tea Parties held a rally Tuesday at the Capitol.

As anger rises about health care reform and increased federal spending, the year-old Tea Party remains strong, with hundreds of independent groups rallying Thursday across the nation.

According to the Tea Party Patriots Web site, at least 666 rallies or meetings around the country were scheduled for tax day. Eleven groups held rallies in Missouri, rounding off a week of similar demonstrations.

MU College Republicans Chairman Brett Dinkins said his group helped local Tea Party groups organize a protest at the state capital Tuesday. The College Republicans organized a similar event last year.

Conservative radio host Michael Reagan, the son of the former president, spoke to crowds of Tea Party supporters, and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder also attended the rally.

Dinkins acknowledged Tea Party groups have many different viewpoints, with some opposed to both Democrats and Republicans, but he said the groups are made up mostly of conservatives who identify with Republican tenets.

"You're more likely to find a conservative Republican than a conservative Democrat," Dinkins said. "So we're trying to get some candidates in there who can identify with the Tea Parties."

Tea stands for "taxed enough already," and the groups protested for lower tax rates, decreased federal spending and increased civil liberties.

Dinkins said the College Republicans are considering staging a similar protest in November to drum up support for the midterm Congressional elections. Dinkins said the group might hold the rally on campus or somewhere nearby.

Also Thursday, the national-level Tea party unveiled its Contract From America, a list of ten proposals the group is demanding politicians follow to limit government and decrease spending.

The document was formally presented at a rally in Washington at a ceremony to mark the end of the Tea Party Express, a three-week bus tour with Tea Party supporters holding rallies in cities they felt would be important to the November elections. The tour stopped April 5 in St. Louis.

Although the group now has a national organization holding its own set of events to attract media attention, local groups feel they can still pursue their own agendas autonomously.

Hannibal Tea Party Patriots Organizer Ric Deters said the movement is becoming more organized, but the groups still attract members of many different political persuasions, both liberal and conservative.

"It's more of a viewpoint than a political party," Deters said. "Washington isn't listening to the people on taxes or health care or the bailouts and people are just upset."

Hours before a rally Thursday in downtown Washington, Mo., Franklin Tea Party Coalition Organizer Angela Rogers said the movement was a blend of both independent groups and an established national hierarchy.

Rogers said the groups, whose purposes vary from lowering taxes to decreasing gun control, organize their own events and agendas, but they identify with the national movement to give their messages more credibility.

The Republican Party has been courting Tea Party members for the November elections to prevent the movement from splitting the conservative vote. Several House Republicans praised the Contract From America on Thursday.

Although he did not address Tea Party protests specifically, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., echoed similar sentiments on recent spending increases.

"American families need to be mindful that with the record spending binge that this President and Congress have been engaged in," Luetkemeyer said. "They will see Uncle Sam demanding more and more of their hard-earned money."

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