Anchorage fitness instructor Amy Brun doesn't want to see any more trillion-dollar federal bailouts. She doesn't want to pay higher taxes, and she doesn't want what she does pay to bankroll some corporate CEO's bonus.
"For the first time in my life, I want to know what they're going to do with my money -- because there's a lot of it going out and not a lot of it coming in," Brun said.
So on Wednesday, the 45-year-old went to her first-ever protest as part of a national Tax Day Tea Party in downtown Anchorage. More than 1,200 other tax protesters joined her, crowding the corners of Seventh Avenue and C Street at the foot of the federal building for more than two hours.
Hundreds more gathered in the Mat-Su later in the day as a coalition of conservative groups, spurred by Fox News, organized hundreds of similar events around the country.
The protests are meant to evoke the Boston Tea Party against taxation in 1773. Protesters like Brun say the federal government ought to let the free market save the crumbling economy rather than going deeper in debt through bailouts or stimulus spending to spur recovery.
Anchorage sign wavers wore tea bags tied to their jacket zippers or eyeglasses, sometimes chanting or singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Drivers leaned on their horns as they rolled past signs that said things like:
• "We are not your ATM."
• "Even God only asks 10 percent."
• "What's in your wallet? My money."
NO TO BAILOUTS
While some protesters said they were unhappy with former President George W. Bush's economic policies, too -- Brun said she didn't like his bailout plan either -- President Barack Obama bore the brunt of the anger from a crowd that largely identified themselves as conservatives.
The Democratic National Committee responded to the protests with an e-mail quoting spokesman Hari Sevugan:
"While we support the right of Americans to petition their government, what's clear is that the overwhelming majority of folks support President Obama's plan to get the economy back on track and provide 95 percent of working families with tax relief," Sevugan wrote.
The Anchorage protest swelled between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. along C Street, where grandmother Susanne Carnes held a sign that read, "My America is Christian and I want it back." She said she believes "with all my heart" that Obama is an "undercover terrorist."
But the majority of protest signs centered on taxes and national debt, like the one carried by an expectant young mother: "My unborn child is already $36,000 in debt."
As conservative radio host Eddie Burke led the group on a slow march around the federal building, counter-protester Wendy Isbell of Anchorage stood at the corner holding a sign of her own. It made a reference to a naughty definition of "teabagging" and poked fun at the rally-goers.
Parents in the crowd got mad and someone called her a lesbian, Isbell said, as a woman in pigtails saw the sign and struck up an argument with her over taxes.
State Republican Party chairman Randy Ruedrich roamed the crowd carrying "Vote Dan Sullivan mayor" signs while a pair of Eagle River high school students asked Sullivan to sign a form showing they'd attended the protest for their U.S. government class.
Mary Ann Krasselt, 66, pointed a sign reading "No! to radical Obama and his socialist taxes" toward the intersection. She wore her husband's Revolutionary War costume -- tricorn hat and all -- and she said she can't afford to retire from her sales job.
"I don't mind paying taxes. And I don't mind working," she said. "But I don't want to work and pay taxes so somebody else can sit. That's one of the reasons that we're here."
In the Mat-Su, a riled-up crowd of several hundred protestors frustrated by government spending filled a parking lot at Wasilla Lake for a tax day rally heavy on anti-Obama rhetoric and calls to retake the Republican Party.
A line of protestors along the Parks Highway waved signs reading, "OBAMBI The enemy from within" and "America is still a Christian nation not socialist."
Chuck Heath, Gov. Sarah Palin's father, worked the perimeters wearing a grin and a "Joe the Plumber" sweatshirt.
Organizers read a letter from Palmer state Rep. Carl Gatto commending participants for speaking out and "sending a message" to the president and Congress.
"The direction our leaders are taking us is not the direction we citizens prefer," wrote Gatto, who, like nearly all House members, voted earlier this year to accept nearly $1 billion in federal stimulus money for Alaska.
Valdez resident Marge Bandy awoke at 5 a.m. to make the 5½ hour drive to Wasilla for the protest.
A retired teacher and independent voter, she dressed her 6-month-old Shih Tzu in a coat reading, "Obama No More Pork." She called the president's stimulus package "scary."
"We're headed too close, going too far over to socialism," she said. "You can't spend your way out of debt."
But others said it didn't matter which party was in charge. Wasilla's David Hopper, not a fan of Obama or Bush stimulus plans, said it's time for a three-party system.
"We don't have checks and balances any more," Hopper said. "They take our checks and we're supposed to balance it for them."