St. Louis riverfront draws rally against Obama stimulus plan
ST. LOUIS — Critics of President Barack Obama's stimulus plan gathered beneath the Arch Friday to cheer speeches over a bullhorn and toss tea into the Mississippi River.
A few conservative activists organized and promoted the rally, with help from talk-radio hosts. Pleased with the turnout in 35-degree bluster, leaders said they had stolen a page from liberal tradition by taking to the streets with homemade signs.
"If I had known this many people would show up, I'd have charged admission," said Bill Hennessy of Ballwin, the lead organizer. "We'll do this every chance we get until Congress repeals the pork — or we retire them from public life."
Hennessy estimated that more than 1,000 people showed up. There was no official count, but the crowd spilled across roughly one-fourth of the grand staircase from the Arch to Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard. Former state Sen. John Loudon, R-Chesterfield, said, "We conservatives are usually pretty pathetic at making crowds. But this one's good."
Hennessy said he got the idea after Rick Santelli, a CNBC market commentator in Chicago, last week called for a tea party to protest Obama's anti-recession plan. Santelli's comments became a YouTube hit, and similar "tea parties" were planned in other cities.
The original took place on Dec. 16, 1773, when American patriots dumped imported tea from merchant ships into Boston harbor to protest British colonial taxes.
Dana Loesch, a radio host on 97.1 FM, had talked up Friday's rally and served as emcee. Signs waved around her included, "Pork, the new 'Red' meat," and "King Barack III and the House of Lards."
Jackie Smith, former tight end for the old St. Louis football Cardinals, said, "We are mad as hell and we need to stay mad as hell. Don't let up."
Megan Dunham of Maplewood brought her four daughters with some painted signs "because it's important that the kids take part."
She said it was her first protest. "All I'd ever done before is yell at the TV. This is exciting."
*** Califstarheart ***