After nearly two weeks of IRS scandal coverage which splashed Benghazi hearings off of page one in the 24/7 news cycle, local Cincinnati Tea Party and Ohio liberty group leaders decided to spotlight a local story with national ramifications.
The seed of an idea which began with a three-way text message between local Cincinnati Tea Party and Ohio liberty leaders swelled to a nationwide protest of the IRS Tuesday. The brainchild of Andrew Pappas, Ann Becker, and Ted Stevenot, CTP’s “Rein in the IRS” rally grew to mammoth proportions. With the help of Tea Party Patriots, scores of rallies popped up across the U.S., including Cleveland, Columbus, Canton, and Mansfield, Ohio.
The group wanted to focus attention on recent intrusive targeting of conservative individuals and groups applying for tax exempt status from the IRS. The scandal centers on the IRS office in Cincinnati where tax exempt applications are processed and reportedly hundreds of conservative and religious groups were harassed by the IRS
The rally, which began at noon on Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati, dispersed approximately 45 minutes later after leaders delivered a Cease and Desist letter to Internal Revenue Service officials, with the chant “we’re going back to work.”
Organizers scheduled the rally at a time they believed participants and downtown workers could attend at lunch – not to mention the optics of a busy work day at the federal office building.
The protest was enthusiastic and orderly as the group walked a block down Fifth Street to the John W. Peck federal building on Main Street. The rally was punctuated with car horns, chants, and patriotic songs.
Ohio Liberty Coalition president Ted Stevenot estimated a crowd of approximately 500 in attendance – not to mention hundreds of onlookers and timid sympathizers plus the 100 or so viewers on Tea Party Patriots live feed.
According to Stevenot, “…Limited government really comes to mind in this situation because when the government gets too big, it has the propensity to have these sorts of excesses occur. We want to make sure that people’s individual rights are protected, and so we think that’s best done in an environment when there’s smaller government…the remedy for it is some sort of review so the policies are in place to keep this from happening in the future…we want to see free speech protected…it comes together on a lot of fronts…it’s a really important situation.”
Informal conversations with most onlookers revealed an underlying theme – intimidation, even fear of the power of government, especially the IRS.
Local Cincinnatian Justin Talbot commented, “It’s interesting…There’s a lot of people who I guess are pretty mad…The IRS has been accused of targeting right-wing groups.”
On IRS involvement in administering Obamacare, Talbot said, “That could be very scary…if they have control over where you’re getting your healthcare from and your taxes, they have a lot of control there ….there needs to be a lot more oversight, a thorough vetting of all government processes.”
Former State Representative Tom Brinkman, “I’m here to express my outrage at the IRS’s selective enforcement of the rules and certainly, I feel this comes from the top down, a culture, an environment of discriminating against some groups versus others, and I think people by and large know that that’s not fair and therefore they’re against it.”
Reporter Scott Waggoner, WCPO TV channel 9, who was asked to weigh in about the rally, said, “I think it’s a news event…who are you?”
In an ironic twist, NBC news crew declined to comment saying, “We’re here to cover a story.”
An onlooker stated, “I just think it’s time that we stand up and say this isn’t right….I’m checking the signs out and enjoying some of those. I think they’re here because they’ve had enough. You can’t have selective enforcement of the law or enforce it differently for different people…”
He declined to give his name saying, “That’s where it’s gotten to.”
An amused male observer who preferred anonymity declined to join the protesters, but chimed in on chanting “you work for us” because “I just thought it was kinda funny…and answered “I guess I don’t really know” as to why the Tea Party was there. “We just came down to look at it….and I don’t really know any specifics really.”
Another postulated “something about IRS audits…non-profit stuff.”
On the IRS administering Obamacare, another unnamed spectator said, “I believe in as little government, especially federal government, as possible.”
Passerby Alfred Bryant, “Because the IRS is pretty much like slavery…I just happened to be here right now, this moment…I should be part of it. I owe the IRS now.”
On the IRS administering Obamacare and hiring 16,000 new agents Bryant said, “It’s not good…I didn’t know that, but I can believe it. It’s modern-day slavery for everybody, that’s what it is.”
Hamilton County native and observer Tom Jarvis, an employee of the Hamilton County Auditor’s office declared, “I just support the Tea Party, I’m conservative as far as my political views. I just found out about it an hour ago…I just think this current administration is totally out of control…it makes you really worry about where this country is going…”
Justin Binik-Thomas said, “I’m here today because I am question #26. I was identified by name within the questionnaires… I think the rally is bringing some attention to people on the ground in Cincinnati, I think the hearings are bringing attention to people on the ground in DC….the fact of the matter is, it’s a big story to call out individuals in these questions.”
Cincinnati Tea Party President Ann Becker spoke to the group on megaphone, “We took in the letter and it was accepted by the IRS. They’re going to pass it along…I’m sure proud we all came out today.” The IRS district chief was reportedly not there.
Jeff Capell of Blue Ash, “I just wanted to show my support for the citizens who agree that what the IRS is doing is unacceptable. Any federal government employee knows that you are not allowed to use the power of your office to discriminate against other Americans and the IRS needs to learn that.”
“I think it just helps draws some attention to what the IRS has been doing and hopefully show that citizens aren’t going to be scared of them and demand that they reform.”
The IRS scandal illustrates a government in complete control, not out of control – what effect then on whistleblowers and dissenters?
In a recent development, news sources report that Lois Lerner, Tax Exempt Chief of the IRS has taken the Fifth Amendment and will not testify at the Senate hearings on Wednesday, May 22.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights can occasionally be useful for those in positions of power.
Perhaps those unwilling to join the rally or make public comments most effectively supported and illustrated the importance of limited government on the Tea Party’s behalf.