A group of Gilbert residents hopes its "tax day" rally planned at the seat of local government will become the East Valley's center for resistance to what they say is an overspending national government.
It's anybody's guess as to the turnout noon Wednesday in front of Town Hall for the Gilbert TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party, but it's a pretty sure bet that emotions will be running high.
Since learning about the national movement online and volunteering to organize an event in Gilbert, Denna Ray has receivedup to 40 e-mails a day from people across the East Valley wanting to participate. She's hoping 100 or more will show up.
She said she was reading about the event and pushed a button to organize it because she's concerned about the direction the Obama administration and other leaders appear to be taking the country through economic stimulus efforts and other means.
"We're spending lots of money which we don't have, which our children and grandchildren are going to pay for," she said. "I feel our leaders are working very hard to turn this into a socialistic nation, and it just sickens me. Every day I think, 'what can I do?' That's why I hit that button."
She and her husband, Steven, are Republican precinct committee members in legislative District 22, but she emphasizes the TEA Party is a nonpartisan event open to voters of all political affiliations.
The protest will feature speeches by Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, and Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert. Town Council candidates Erin Scroggins and Jenn Daniels, plus recent mayoral candidate and former Councilman Dave Petersen, will also be on hand.
Gilbert's event will be one of about 1,700 rallies across the country making up "America's Tea Party," which aims to echo the spirit of the 1773 Boston Tea Party with speeches, marches and other demonstrations of displeasure with the tax burden borne by residents, which most participants agree will worsen as the federal government's stimulus packages are rolled out in efforts to revive the economy.
The state's largest Wednesday party will likely be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the state Capitol in Phoenix, featuring appearances by Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth and Tribune opinion-page contributor Austin Hill, among others.
Ray said she'll encourage people at the Gilbert event to go later in the day to Phoenix, but people from as far away as Casa Grande and Coolidge have said they're going to the Gilbert party because it's closer.
Tom Jenney, director of Americans for Prosperity Arizona, said his group staged a Tempe TEA Party that drew more than 150 people with two days' notice on Feb. 27, around the time groups around the country were settling upon April 15 as the target date for a nationwide demonstration.
Jenney said each event will have its own flair, but all will have one thing in common: "You're going to have a lot of very angry people who are very concerned about what's happening to this country."
According to the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers' Web site, Gilbert is the only other Valley municipality where a rally is being held. Other than Tucson, most of the state's tea parties will be in smaller communities, including Prescott, Sedona and Chloride (population: 250).
The federation is organizing the Phoenix and Tucson parties, but is less involved with the other events. Jenney said he's gotten 2,000 confirmations for the Phoenix event and expects more than 1,000 in Tucson.