Gilbert activists are planning another tax protest at Town Hall to mark Independence Day on Saturday. And while not expecting as large a turnout as a similar party April 15, organizers still hope to have a substantial impact on local affairs.
Saturday's TEA Party, which stands for Taxed Enough Already, is turning into a launching pad for three just-filed referendums against tax increases that were adopted by the Town Council in Gilbert this week. Those opposed to the hikes will be gathering voter signatures to place the increases on the ballot.
The party is part of a series of rallies nationwide, but it is the only one in the East Valley. The parties began as rallies coinciding with the federal income tax-filing deadline.
Denna Ray, one of the event's organizers, said the April event attended by roughly 2,000 galvanized "a big group of people who are taking action, where before they have been just sitting back and waiting for someone else to act."
Saturday's rally will build on that, she said.
Ray and others are expecting about 200 people to show up in April and were floored by the turnout.
This time, they figure the holiday and summer heat will cut back on participation. Ray is predicting around 500 people will show up - "or maybe 5,000."
The program begins at 8:30 a.m., and the first hour will feature patriotic music, a pledge to protect the Constitution led by members of the Arizona Rangers, and speeches from former councilman Dave Petersen, recent Town Council candidate Erin Scroggins, and others. The last half-hour will be an open-mike session for the audience.
Parking will be permitted in the lot next to the demonstration, at the public safety complex across Civic Center Drive or at the shopping center across Gilbert Road, but not on the vacant property surrounding the municipal buildings. People are advised to bring bottled water, along with any flags, signs or other displays. No restrooms will be available on site.
No security problems were reported at the last event, despite the unexpectedly large size of the crowd. Ray said what they have in common is they are "individuals united by our shared concern over excessive spending by an out-of-control federal, state and local government that has exceeded bounds set by the United States Constitution."
There are similar parties being planned in Kingman and other Arizona cities, including Phoenix.
Even in politically conservative Gilbert, not everyone agrees with the low-tax, limited-government sentiments of the TEA Party organizers. Former Town Councilman Mike Evans thinks there's a disconnect between their philosophy and that of the majority of Americans.
"They want to take the government back to something that it was in the 1800s or early 1900s. They don't realize that we're living in the 21st century, and they don't realize that they've lost the elections," Evans said. "They lost the governor's race, and they lost the presidential race."