VIDEO/PHOTOS: Naples Tea Party draws hundreds with Rubio support, counterprotest from Obamarmy

Hundreds of Tea Party members gather

At the intersection of Pineridge and U.S ...

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— They held hand-made signs supporting the United States Constitution, tax cuts and an audit of the Federal Reserve.

They asked drivers to “Honk for Capitalism,” and let government officials know that “I am not your ATM.”

They seemed to like Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio. President Barack Obama, Democrats and incumbents in general— not so much.

But their main message to passers-by was simple: Wake up.

Nearly a year since the small-government, populist “tea party” movement first began in Southwest Florida and across the country in protest of the perceived threat of growing government power, hundreds if not more than a thousand people gathered near the intersection of U.S. 41 North and Pine Ridge Road on Saturday to keep the party going.

Horns honked, American flags waved, and patriotic music played.

As the event officially kicked off at noon, the protest paused as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played over the loudspeakers. Attendees then recited the Pledge of Allegiance before breaking out into “Happy Birthday” for former President Ronald Reagan, the hero to conservatives who would have celebrated his 99th birthday Saturday.

Barry Willoughby, who helped organize the event, said he decided to hold the tea party on Saturday in part to coincide with the first-ever National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, as well as to celebrate the recent election of Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

“That was a tea party victory in Massachusetts,” Willoughby said.

The tea party protest was officially held from noon to 2 p.m., but many of the demonstrators arrived early knowing there was a planned opposition protest.

About 25 people from a group called the Obamarmy gathered on the southwest corner of the intersection waving their own signs, cheering their own honks, and playing equally patriotic tunes.

“We’re fed up with the tea party people and all of their lies,” said John Lundin, 56, the East Naples resident and Obama supporter who arranged the counter protest. “The idea is to go to their events and counteract their events.”

Despite being far outnumbered by tea party supporters, Lundin said he was happy with the turnout for his event, because it was the first one in Collier County, and because there are significantly more registered Republicans in Collier than Democrats.

“I am diametrically opposed to everything they are doing,” Karen Perlow, 65, a member of the Obamarmy, said of the tea party supporters. “We’re here to support our president, the government. They support the party of ‘No.’ They want (Obama) to fail. If he fails, the United States fails.”

The opposition rally didn’t concern Willoughby.

“That’s what America is all about,” he said.

Roger Ballard, 74, of North Naples, said he believes the big turnout for the tea party shows that people are tired of “Obama trying to bring this country down.”

“He wants to bring everybody down to the lowest level and spread the wealth,” Ballard said. “He wants everyone to be equal.”

“Equally poor,” added George Hodge, 80, also of North Naples.

Some tea party supporters were openly skeptical of the press, including the Daily News, and smelled bias in January when the paper ran the story about Brown’s victory in Massachusetts on page 18-A. They believed it was front-page news.

“Every time I read the paper I say ‘I don’t know why I get this paper,’” Ballard said.

Shirley Welindt, 75, and her friend, Peggie Williams, 70, who are both from Marco Island, participated in the tea party rally on the west side of U.S. 41.

Welindt and Williams said they traveled to Washington, D.C., last year to participate in a tea party event, and recently attended a show in Tampa featuring Fox News hosts Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly.

Williams said she and Welindt are committed to the tea party movement.

“I think it really represents the values that have been lost in this country,” she said.

Earlier

They held hand-made signs supporting the United States Constitution, tax cuts and an audit of the Federal Reserve.

They asked drivers to "Honk for Capitalism," and let government officials know that "I am not your ATM."

They seemed to like Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio. President Barack Obama and the Democrats — not so much.

But their main message to passers-by was simple: Wake up.

Nearly a year since the small-government "tea party" movement first began in Southwest Florida and across the country in protest of the perceived threat of growing government power, hundreds if not more than a thousand people gathered near the intersection of U.S. 41 North and Pine Ridge Road this afternoon to keep the party going.

Horns honked, American flags waved, and patriotic music played.

Roger Ballard, 74, of North Naples, said he believes the big turnout shows that people are tired of "Obama trying to bring this country down."

"He wants to bring everybody down to the lowest level and spread the wealth," Ballard said. "He wants everyone to be equal."

"Equally poor," added George Hodge, 80, also of North Naples.

The tea party officially was from noon to 2 p.m., but many of the demonstrators arrived early knowing there was an opposition protest planned.

About 25 people from a group called the Obamarmy gathered on the southwest corner of the intersection waving their own signs, cheering their own honks, and playing equally patriotic tunes.

"We’re fed up with the tea party people and all of their lies," said John Lundin, 56, the East Naples resident and Obama supporter who arranged the counter protest.

Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills

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Comments » 1

u2cane writes:

I actually think that this Tea Party is a good thing, hopefully gives the country a third party that can stand up to the two that aren't cutting it. It's not that the Tea Party doesn't support this country or its President, they just don't support some of the ideas that this government has floated that they feel could get us in deeper trouble. I think they are fed up with the corruption of each party, not just the Democrats. We need a real change to politicians that we can trust with our money and policies. I think its great for the country that this is going on, maybe we will stop bouncing between one corrupt party and the other.

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