Sarah Palin rallied the tea party movement near its historical roots with a pre-Tax Day message, telling Washington politicians that government should be working for the people, not the other way around.
Addressing roughly 5,000 people assembled in the morning sunshine near the site of the original Boston Tea Party, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee accused President Obama of overreaching with his $787 billion stimulus program and criticized the administration’s health care, student loan and financial regulatory overhauls.
“Is this what their ‘change’ is all about?” Palin asked the crowd on Boston Common. “I want to tell ’em, nah, we’ll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion — and you can keep the change.”
With husband Todd looking on, she added: “We need to cut taxes, so that our families can keep more of what they earn and produce and our mom-and-pops then, our small businesses, can reinvest according to our own priorities, and hire more people and let the private sector grow and thrive and prosper.”
Palin, who served as Alaska’s governor for 2 1/2 years, played to the crowd as she trotted out a trademark line while lobbying for more domestic energy production.
“Yeah, let’s drill, baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall — you betcha,” she said.
The gathering harkened back to 1773, when American colonists upset about British taxation without government representation threw British tea into the harbor in protest.
“I feel like I’m taking care of my son and daughter and grandchildren’s business,” said Mary Lou O’Connell, 72, of Duxbury. She listed “deceit” and “gentle corrosion of the political process” as two concerns and toted a sign reading, “Start Deleting Corruption Nov. 2010.”
Another attendee, John Arathuzik, 69, of Topsfield, said he had never been especially politically active until he saw the direction of the Obama administration.
“I feel like I can do one of two things: I can certainly vote in November, which I’ll do, and I can provide support for the peaceful protest about the direction this country is taking,” said Arathuzik, a veteran who clutched a copy of the Constitution distributed by one of the vendors who had set up shop amid locals heading to work and walking their dogs.
Cynthia Seeder of Natick had another key message: don’t make fun of us.
“I want my country back,” Seeder said. “I want to pass the country that I grew up in to my children and my grandchildren. I just want the government to listen to us, to hear us, not call us names.”
A festive mood filled the air. A band played patriotic music, and hawkers sold yellow Gadsden flags emblazoned with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” and the image of a rattlesnake.
The rally also drew a number of curiosity seekers from nearby offices and college campuses. Some of the students held mocking counter-protests, holding signs against the Tea Party and wearing costumes.
Notably absent was Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican who in January won the seat held for half a century by the late liberal icon Edward M. Kennedy.
He cited congressional business, which included hearings about the Iranian nuclear program.
“That’s a heck of a lot more important than him being here right now,” conservative talk show host Mark Williams told the crowd.
Brown kept the movement at a respectful distance during his campaign last winter, concerned if he gets too close, he risks being aligned with the tea party’s more radical followers. Some have questioned the legitimacy of everything from Mr. Obama’s U.S. birthplace to his college degree.
The rally was the next-to-last event in the 20-day, 47-city Tea Party Express tour concluding Thursday in Washington.
Palin also helped kick off the tour in Searchlight, Nev., hometown of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democratic target of the movement.
WBUR’s Sonari Glinton contributed reporting.