Hundreds of TEA protesters gather in Medford

About 800 protesters rallied through downtown Medford Wednesday morning as part of a nationwide protest inspired by the Boston Tea Party.

With tea bags dangling from his hard hat, Bob Bergquist said government is pushing the country in the wrong direction, racking up huge deficits and failing to live within its means while most Americans have tightened their belts during tough economic times.

"I'm fed up with the government situation as it now stands," said the 78-year-old Medford resident. "It's totally corrupt."

Bergquist stood in a crowd of local residents who gathered for what they called a taxpayer tea party rally outside the Jackson County Courthouse to protest what they see as a government dangerously out of control when it comesto spending.

More than 2,000 people gathered at the Oregon Capitol in Salem to protest what they called "government bailouts, deficits and out-of-control spending." Rallies were scheduled in about 30 Oregon cities, including Grants Pass, Klamath Falls and Roseburg.

Protesters, laden with tea bags, carried mostly home-made signs such as "Billions for the banks, debt for the people," "Stop bankrupting our country," or "What's in my wallet — zero. Thank you, government."

Other placards specifically criticized the current administration: "Comrade Obama, spreading the wealth around is not in the Constitution" and "Obama, the next Chavez," in an apparent reference to the socialist president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.

Organizers of the event, Americans for Prosperity, took pains to say the local rally and others around the nation were a protest specifically against the massive debt the federal government has racked up, not against any single administration.

"We're simply asking government to do the same thing we're doing — tighten their belts and be responsible to the citizens," said Tim Simpson Sr., 54, a Medford resident who joined AFP. "This isn't about Obama. This is about people and making the tax system work."

Lonny Morgan, 54, said he voted for Obama, but said the protest is making a general statement about excessive government spending. "This is about fiscal responsibility," the Eagle Point resident said, and he urged more local control of taxes to make sure officials are held accountable for how they spend the money.

At the top at the courthouse steps, former radio personality Garth Harrington applauded Jackson County as an example of a government entity that is trying to rein in expenses.

During the speeches, the crowd booed when it was announced that white supremacists were passing out literature at the rally.

Jerry McCauley, chairman for the Jackson County chapter of AFP and one of organizers of the Medford rally, said he wasn't surprised by the turnout, and that the problems with government cut across party lines.

"In my opinion, none of them know what they hell they're doing," said the 65-year-old Sams Valley man.

McCauley said the AFP encouraged participants not to turn the protest into a partisan movement. He said no matter what branch of the federal government, each one has fed off the other, creating the financial mess that will burden taxpayers for generations.

"Things have got to change," he said.

Government bailouts have not impressed Tracy Proud, who thinks failing companies shouldn't be propped up.

As a small business owner, the 43-year-old Central Point woman said people should realize that the federal government's actions are endangering the future of the country.

"Government is too big," she said. "It is spending too much money."

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