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Festival preaches political action

Tim Eyman speaks at the third Freedom Festival, a gathering of Tea Party-type groups Thursday  at the Greyhound Park in Post Falls. Eyman is gathering signatures for his latest initiative. (Jesse Tinsley)
Tim Eyman speaks at the third Freedom Festival, a gathering of Tea Party-type groups Thursday at the Greyhound Park in Post Falls. Eyman is gathering signatures for his latest initiative. (Jesse Tinsley)

Eyman starts petition to reinstate I-960

Linda Rhoads is fed up with the elected officials representing her state’s interests in the nation’s capitol.

The 67-year-old Spokane Valley woman wrote to Washington’s two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, urging common-sense health reform to assist senior citizens who rely on Medicare and Social Security.

Rhoads is fighting cancer, and worries under current health reform her treatment won’t be covered.

“All I got back from them is a form letter saying ‘Thanks for writing,’ ” Rhoads said. “So I decided rather than just sitting around doing nothing I could join others and be heard.”

On Thursday night Rhoads joined more than 300 others in the tea party movement in making some noise. They gathered for the third Freedom Festival at the Greyhound Park and Event Center in Post Falls.

In the spirit of making noise, one of the keynote speakers for Thursday’s event was Washington’s tax initiative king, Tim Eyman.

Eyman was soliciting signatures for his latest tax adventure, I-1053, which would reinstate I-960, the initiative repealed last week by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire Wednesday. Eyman was asking people to sign his petition using the same pen Gregoire used to sign the bill.

“I thought it was fitting,” he said.

Approved in 2007, I-960 required a two-thirds majority for the Legislature to raise taxes, among other requirements.. The recent action marks the third time government has overturned similar initiatives, Eyman said.

“This is apple pie among these people,” Eyman said. “It’s clear the voters really support this,” but the government ignores what they want.

The event was sponsored by Friends for Liberty, a group whose organizations include tea party affiliates, as well as representatives from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project, the John Birch Society, and Oath Keepers, a new player in a resurgent militia movement.

Tea party groups, however, resent being the connection between extremist anti-government groups.

“We are not extremists. We are normal people who are fed up,” said Kathleen Clayton, a member of the Sandpoint TEA Party Patriots.

The Sandpoint group recently garnered national attention after appearing in a front-page story in the New York Times.

“When the group started, people thought it would just die away,” Clayton said. “We didn’t. And we didn’t know how bonded we had become until that New York Times reporter started asking questions.”

On Thursday tea parties and other patriot groups from Spokane and North Idaho set up tables pushing a conservative, “constitutionally based” brand of politics, urging people to take a stand against a government that no longer speaks for the people, members said.

Those in attendance could sign up for classes on the U.S. Constitution and seminars for the citizen activists, including an all day “Power of One” training workshop next month with classes in the art of war and rules for radicals, how to use the Freedom of Information Act, and how to run a successful political campaign.

Presentations included a documentary on the story of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Bottom line is they just aren’t listening to us,” said Debra Goodwin, a member of the Spokane Patriots, billed as the action-driven tea party. “There are a bunch of us who want to get out there and make some noise.”

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