Protesters gathered at the Wyoming Capitol to join other disgruntled Americans who seized upon tax day Wednesday to voice their concern over government spending and debt.
As the deadline to file income taxes drew near, about 300 people participated in the "Cheyenne Tax Day Tea Party." Similar protests held around Wyoming and nationwide were meant to echo the rebellion of the Boston Tea Party. Organizers said there were also rallies in Casper, Sheridan, Buffalo, Gillette, Jackson, Cody, Green River and Laramie.
A hearty group of about 300 protesters in Cody withstood blizzard conditions at times.
Gathered at the base of the Capitol steps, the Cheyenne protesters hoisted American flags and handmade signs as they cheered on speakers. Signs on display read "Socialized Health Care is Not Free," "No More Taxation with Lousy Representation," and "Congress: The Opposite of Progress."
Along with criticizing government debt, the protesters railed against bailouts of private banks and companies, the Federal Reserve System, spending on social programs and gun control.
"We're worried about the moral, political and economic direction of this country today," said Kirk Kolkman, a telecommunications technician from Cheyenne who helped organize the event. "We decided these events would be a forum to educate people on the Constitution, nationalization of business and industry, and federal tax-and-spend policy."
Kolkman and other organizers said they held the event independently of any political party or other group.
Duncan Philp, of Carpenter, said he was surprised at the size of the crowd Wednesday. Philp carried a Gadsden flag -- reading "Don't Tread on Me" -- and dragged a United Nations flag on the ground to display disrespect, he said.
Philp said he's a member of the Wyoming Tyranny Response Team, a group dedicated to the Bill of Rights.
He said Congress ignored Americans' request not to bail out financially troubled banks.
"Bush and Obama have done the same thing," Philp said. "They've given out loans for money they don't have."
"I just got fed up with the government and decided to get involved," said Pretty Martin, a Cheyenne resident who helped organize the rally. "Our government is spending us into oblivion and taxing us to cover it."
Rally participants also sang "God Bless America," and shouted "Amen" when speakers discussed topics of fiscal responsibility, personal sovereignty and lower taxes.
"I'm here for my kids -- the debt we're piling on them," said Neal Butler, a Laramie County resident who delivers liquid nitrogen for a living. "We're protesting the debt before it becomes taxes."
Organizers of the Cheyenne event stressed a non-partisan message, but many of those attending were clearly outraged by policies put in place by the Obama administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress.
The Obama administration's economic stimulus package, and its long-term repercussions on national debt, was a chief topic of discussion at Wednesday's rally.
"There is more to being president that playing with a new dog," said M. Leavell, a retired nurse, who said the government is selling out the American people.