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Taxing their patience: Anti-tax activists rally in Manatee County

MANATEE — They came out in mass wearing red, white and blue.

Some had tea bags taped to their hats and protest signs.

A woman carried a placard saying “You are not entitled to what I earn.”

Hundreds rallied at four “tea parties” in Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch to protest government spending and bailouts with speeches, shouts-outs at motorists, patriotic singing and pointed signs.

Manatee County was site of the rallies Wednesday, the day federal income taxes were due, as part of a national protest spurred by Freedom Works, a conservative nonprofit organization.

In Lakewood Ranch, roughly 300 packed a small park at the end of Main Street from 3-7 p.m. and listened to speeches near the front door of Ed’s Tavern.

“I started paying taxes when I was 13, and I’m 61 now and still paying them,” Jack Kudary said. “And I’m taxed-off!”

There were phrases tossed off like “Beltway pirates” and “American socialists.” The crowd sang “God Bless America” twice in the first 90 minutes.

Mike Rigas, of Mill Creek, showed up in the garb of a commoner during the Revolution War and the Boston Tea Party, when New Englanders tossed British tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxation without representation.

Rigas’ outfit featured a tri-cornered hat, handmade shoes with buckles and homemade pants with buttons.

“I think we are being taxed to death,” Rigas said. “The government says it is giving us a tax break when, in reality, it is giving less to the states so the states have to make up the difference from us. People have to realize that all this spending has to be paid for.”

In downtown Bradenton, about 75 people lined Manatee Avenue West in front of the county administration building, waving their hands and hand-written signs at motorists headed home from work.

Some of those drivers honked back in apparent support of the anti-government-spending ideas.

One protester waved an American flag. A woman held a broom with a sign affixed that said “Sweep Washington clean.”

Another woman’s sign read “You are not entitled to what I earn.”

At Mixon Fruit Farms, 2712 26th Avenue East, about 300 people packed into a pavilion, singing patriotic songs and listening to speakers.

“I’ve always been a fan of minimal government. To find a movement spurred by this, I had to jump on it,” said Stephanie Fuhr, who organized the party at Mixon’s. “I hope people take away they can make a difference. If you want to make a change, I want people to know it starts locally.”

Fuhr collected signatures from those who attended to attach to a petition to send to President Barack Obama and local congressional representatives.

“It’s not even about them taking notice, but getting people here now to take action. That’s what’s going to make the change. We know this isn’t going to change anything overnight,” she said.

Speakers encouraged protesters to research candidates, vote in local elections and to make their voices heard to elected officials.

“If one small group can spur an entire revolution, why can’t this?” Fuhr said, reflecting on the 1773 Boston Tea Party, which led to the Revolutionary War.

Luis and Alexandra Collado, of Bradenton, attended a tea party, bringing their five children ages 3 to 16.

The couple’s 8-year-old daughter Liliana wore a T-shirt stating “DC needs to take a time out.”

“What does time out mean?” Alexandra Collado asked her daughter.

“You’re in trouble,” replied Liliana, clutching a sign.

“You’ve got to sit down and think about it,” Collado said, explaining it. “That’s what we want the government to do. We want to them to sit down and think about its spending.”

The couple brought their children to expose them and teach them about the political process, said Luis Collado.

Collado is from Peru and his wife, Alexandra, is from the Netherlands.

“For people who come from another country, this is the land of opportunity. It needs to stay like that,” said Alexandra Collado. “Socialism doesn’t work.”

Flannery Morgan, 21, a Sarasota nursing student, had a sign that read, “Stop Mortgaging My Future.” “The problem is a lot of poor business decisions and greedy behavior,” Morgan said.

Her friend, Kathryn Clark, 22, of Lakewood Ranch and the Savannah College of Art and Design, focused her anger at taxes.

“I think the entire tax system is broken,” she said. “Half the Cabinet haven’t managed to pay their taxes correctly. We need a flat tax or something to get this working right.”