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Bemidji Tea Party protests government spending

Shirley O'Brien, left, and Pat Brittain were part of the hundreds who participated in the Tea Party Protest on Thursday evening along Bemidji Avenue North. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Paul Todd, 72, a retired over-the-road trucker from Nevis, doesn't like any incumbent in Washington, D.C., no matter what party.

"Like all the rest of them, I'm ticked off," he said late Thursday afternoon, pointing to between 300 and 400 people who lined two city blocks along Bemidji Avenue as part of the Tax Day Bemidji Tea Party.

An independent, Todd hasn't been active with either the Democrats or the Republicans', he said. "The deficits scare the heck out of me, and health care does, too, because I'll have to go on Medicare and I don't want to. We have private insurance, even at 72, and I not want to go t Medicare."

The hundreds who participated lined the street, waving signs and American flags. Heavy rush hour traffic honked frequently at the group's efforts. They urged lower taxes and smaller government.

At the same time, at the U.S. Post Office, several union officials were urging postal patron to support their "Tax the Rich" idea to balance Minnesota's budget.

Todd's sign read: "Help retire all career politicians, help elect patriots to all state and federal positions."

Like most at the rally, Todd doesn't want more government influence into his life, especially in health care. "Let me take care of myself, I can do it," he said. "I just don't like the way government gets its nose into everything."

Jeff Molnar's sign read, "Love of Country." The rural Bemidji man is a Republican activist and a farmer.

"I think they love their country," he said of the gathering. "We love our country, we want what's best for our country. We want what's best for our children. We want to be able to pay our bills, we don't want to overspend; we can't borrow too much money."

Molnar says that "we have to hold down our budgets so that we can spend what we take in. We're a country that has so many blessings, and so much money, why can't we just spend what we have and not any more."

The crowd dwindled to aboput a third when speeches were held later, where a fiery Mark Skogerboe, who has spoken at all four Bemidji Tea Parties the past year, called for the impeachment of President Barack Obama.

He told a story of a wounded soldier on the World War II sands of Iwo Jima, hoping to make it through the night, only to see the Stars and Stripes flying boldly over Mount Suribachi.

"He saw six men putting the flag on top of Iwo Jima," Skogerboe said. "That moment, looking at that standard that stands on top of our republic as a foundation, that standard of freedom blood bought. Three of those six men who put that flag up there died that day. Are we going to let this tyrant Obama take it away?"

The crowd shouted "No!"

"Are we going to let this socialist take away our republic without a fight?" Skogerboe asked., again to shouts of "No!"

The U.S. Constitution has two "equalizers," he said, citing the power to vote and the power to impeach.

"What you must do is turn your passion and your angst and anxiety into action," he said. "We need to get articles of impeachment ... whereas President Obama has been giving aid and comfort to the enemy, whereas President Obama is turning his back on the equality demanded by the Fourth Amendment, whereas President Obama has turned his back on the 10th Amendment guaranteeing equal rights to all of the states and the states should have all rights not enumerated in the Constitution ... or whereas he has broken his very oath of office, this man must be impeached."

A petition was available for people to sign, urging Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.

Calling U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-7th District, "wishy-washy," Skobergoe said he may be convinced to carry an impeachment measure if enough peition signatures are obtained, maybe 100,000. "There's a magic tipping point number for him, it might be 100,000."

He cited as impeachable offenses that Obama has proffered unfunded deficits that will threaten Social Security and national defense, ended NASA's program to return to the moon which could then allow other nations to pass us in the technological gains from such endeavors, and turned his back on Israel.

"This sounds like aid and comfort tome," he said. Skogerboe also blasted Obama for his nuclear policy, hoping to pull back the number of nuclear weapons among all nations that have them.

"Thank God we're a superpower," Skogerboe said. "There is no vacuum for power. There will not be an empty spot, power will surge in anywhere it is needed. ... The only thing a bully understands is greater strength, and thank God America is not materialistic."

He called for support of candidates this fall who stand for the law of the Constitution, disputing that it is a living and breathing document that can be changed at any judge's whim, and that the candidate support small government.

Tim Tingekstad, another speaker who again will seek a Minnesota Supreme Court office this election, warned people about an expected constitutional amendment this fall asking voters to support an appointment process for judges, only being put before votersd when a vote of confidence is petitioned.

The preamble to the State Constitution gives thanks to God for our civil and religious liberty, he said. "Do we get liberty from the state? From government? Do we get it from the courts? Do we get it from the Constitution?" He answered no to all.

"We get liberty, we receive liberty as a gift from God," Tingelstad said. "God, then the people and then government. ... The threat to our state in seven months is that you are very likely to see a constitutional amendment ... that will ask Minnesotans to change us from a state of liberty to a state of tyranny."

Approving the amendment "would allow the courts to no longer be servants of the people, under the people, part of the government, to actually be above the people by taking away our right to hold courts accountable through meaningful judicial elections," Tingelstad said.

A statement handed to the media by Bemidji Tea Party supporters said tea parties have wrongly been portrayed and that tea partiers "are regular people who love their country and understand its founding and guiding principles."

It said Obama and Democrats "are socialist in fact, as demonstrated by their own words and deeds, It is not a comical accusation or a rabid overstatement. It is a simple assessment.

The Tea Party is not a third party but is one that supports strong fiscal and lsocial conservatives.

"We strongly support states' rights as conveyed in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," the statement said.

Across the downtown at the same time, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees held a counter rally urging U.S. postal patrons to support their call for taxing the rich.

"We can fix the state budget with fairness and compassion if the richest Minnesotans pay their fair share of taxes," an AFSCME statement says. "It's simply wrong to continue shifting their burden onto the middle class, the jobless and vulnerable."

The union workers ask Minnesotans to stop the cuts and demand revenues.

Information provided by AFSCME shows 2011 tax rates will have a Minnesota household with income of less than $11,202 having a tax rate of 22.1 percent, while a household income of $136,995 or more will have a rate of 10.1 percent, representing the top 10 percent of Minnesota wealth.

"It's time the rich paid their fair share," AFSCME said. "Demand fair taxes to fix the budget and invest in a better Minnesota," the statement said.