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Seneca Falls resident Nate Gilbert demonstrates against high taxes at the corner of Genesee Street and Loop Road following a Tea Party rally at Market Street Park in Auburn Thursday afternoon. The rally was one of thousands held nationwide on the deadline day for federal income tax filing.

AUBURN — Nearly 70 people gathered in the Market Street Park in Auburn Thursday afternoon to scorn the federal government’s tax deadline by voicing their support for political and financial reform.

The two-hour rally, which was one of thousands of “tax parties” going on across the nation, attracted residents from as far away as Seneca Falls and Baldwinsville interested in supporting the Tea Party, a group advocating for less government involvement in American lives.

“I see the Tea Party as being a positive message of support for what we believe in,” said Jennifer Blount, who helped organize Thursday’s event with her husband, Robert. “It’s about supporting the U.S. Constitution, limited government and fiscal responsibility. We are not so much against anything as we are (about supporting) those things.”

During the rally, several people spoke to the crowd about the need to reform government and how taxes overburden the average American family.

Throughout the crowd, supporters waved American flags and carried or wore signs and shirts proclaiming “I am not an ATM Machine,” “Born Free – Taxed to Death” and “Don’t Tread on Me.”

As he read from a satirical list of 10 signs Americans are over taxed, the crowd cheered and applauded when Robert Blount announced, “And number one ... You are hanging out with a bunch of strangers on a Thursday afternoon talking about taxes.”

In attendance was Cayuga County Legislator Timothy Lattimore, who said it was important for residents to get together and share their views on how the government can be improved.

While people may complain about the nature of the banking industry, high taxes and the wasteful way in which the government spends taxpayer money, Lattimore said nothing would change unless the general population made a concerted effort to demand change.

“Until the general population gets mad as hell, we’re going to be led by sheep,” Lattimore said. “I think that when we don’t have participation by the public you have a weak government, you have a government that’s not functioning. The more input we have from the public the better our government is.”

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Many of the event’s speakers said the best way to start was by encouraging residents to voice their concerns at the town, county, state or federal level, regardless of what party they were affiliated with.

“The discussion doesn’t have to be in-your-face,” said Kelly Kheel, a Tompkins County resident invited to speak at the event. “Democrats are also feeling shunned by their own party. This is a two-party system ... we are a two-party nation. Democrats are in the Tea Party too. We vote on principle, not party.”

When the event finished, many of the Tea Party supporters lined up on the sidewalk near the intersection of Genesee Street and Loop Road to wave their flags and display their signs, earning honks of encouragement from several passing drivers. Others stayed in the park to discuss politics amongst themselves as patriotic music played in the background.

Some people also signed up for the local Tea Party’s e-mail list, looking to learn about local political issues or to receive notifications about upcoming elections and events.

The more people became informed about the issues, the more likely they were to participate in the political process, Jennifer Blount said.

“We’ve been too apathetic for too long and I see the Tea Party movement as a positive message for what we stand for,” said Jennifer Blount. “Politics is a serious issue, but I also want it to be a fun topic. I want these Tea Parties to be more like an actual party, not a political rally, and we had that today. These are serious topics but we still need to be able to laugh.”

Staff writer Nate Robson can be reached at 253-5311 ext. 248 or nathan.robson@lee.net


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