Tea Party activists waving flags and signs, singing patriotic songs and chanting anti-IRS slogans held rallies outside federal buildings across the country Tuesday to protest the agency’s extra scrutiny of conservative groups.
A crowd packed the sidewalks in front of and across the street from a Cincinnati federal building housing the Internal Revenue Service offices that handled tax-exempt status applications.
“It’s going to be up to the grass-roots movement to do something,” said Paul Wheeler, dressed in Colonial-era attire with tri-cornered hat and holding a sign saying: “Internal ‘Revenge’ Service Stop.” He said he came from Indianapolis, some 100 miles way, because Cincinnati is “the epicenter of some of the complaints.”
IRS officials have acknowledged that some conservative groups received inappropriate attention.
There were also rallies outside IRS offices in Atlanta; Louisville; Chicago; Cherry Hill, N.J.; Kansas City, Mo.; Philadelphia; and Providence, R.I., among others.
After a short march, activists here filled sidewalks in front of the federal building for about 30 minutes. Some had Revolutionary War-style “Don’t Tread on Me” and 13-star U.S. flags, as they chanted “IRS has got to go!” and “Stop the IRS!” Demonstrators also sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” “G-d Bless America,” and other songs.
A handful of activists gave a Federal Protective Service officer a petition calling for the IRS to “cease and desist” and asked him to deliver it to the IRS. The officer later handed it to a man in street clothes farther inside the building.
“I don’t know if we made a difference, but I’m sure proud that we all came out,” the Cincinnati Tea Party president, Ann Becker, told fellow demonstrators. There were also activists from other local Tea Party groups from northern Kentucky and Cincinnati suburbs in the hundreds-strong crowd, among the largest of the protests Tuesday.
Several IRS employees in Cincinnati declined to comment or didn’t return phone messages.
In Washington, a few dozen people congregated outside the IRS headquarters, listening to speeches and carrying signs reading “Audit the IRS” and “Don’t audit me, Bro.”
Shoshana Weissmann, a 20-year-old George Washington University student who works at a political consulting firm, said she was troubled by the IRS’ actions.
“I just think what they did was inappropriate and if they were doing this to liberals, I would be out here, too,” said Weissmann, a Republican who said she is not affiliated with the Tea Party. “It’s scary to think the IRS is capable of this.”