Monday, January 22, 2018
Politics

Tampa tea party groups protest at IRS office

TAMPA — At first glance, Tuesday's event looked like a Fourth of July celebration.

Decked in red, white and blue and waving American flags, some in the crowd of about 120 people on Columbus Drive wore shirts declaring themselves patriots, proud to be Americans.

But they were angry. Standing in front of the Tampa office of the Internal Revenue Service, they said the agency's recent actions constitute tyranny.

Earlier this month, the IRS acknowledged that it singled out conservative groups, including those affiliated with the tea party, for special scrutiny — activity that last week led to congressional outrage, denunciations by the president and the ouster of the agency's acting commissioner.

According to an inspector general's report, the IRS began the scrutiny in March 2010.

The protesters, some from Tampa 9-12 and other tea party groups, came out to demand change. Some said they want the IRS to be audited. Others want the agency disbanded.

They demanded that President Barack Obama take responsibility and those who led the scrutiny or knew about it to be fired, even jailed.

"This is the tyranny that our forefathers warned us about, and this is the tyranny the tea party warned about, and it needs to stop," said Sharon Calvert, co-founder of the Tampa Tea Party.

The IRS asked for extra security Tuesday at its office at 3848 W Columbus Drive, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrived.

The officers did not appear necessary, though, as the group remained peaceful. Most faced away from the IRS toward the road, cheering passing cars that honked in support.

Edward Durham, 55, came out with a yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flag. He wants the federal government to get out of Americans' lives, he said.

"What the IRS did, it's illegal," he said.

Karen Jaroch, who cofounded the Tampa chapter of Glenn Beck's 9–12 group, last week told the Tampa Bay Times that when the group applied for tax-exempt status in 2010, it not only had to complete a 17-page application but was later asked for copies of its educational literature, a breakdown of how members would spend their time and the names of political candidates the group would support.

Speaking over a bullhorn, 57-year-old John Junstrom of Tampa said: "The IRS must stop targeting Christians and tea partiers and patriots. This is tyranny. Obama is targeting whites and Christians.

"Obama hates the tea party and all other patriots and all those who uphold and obey the Constitution."

When he announced "abolish the IRS!" the crowd cheered.

Junstrom said because of recent events, he is worried. He believes the government is covering up facts regarding the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. installation in Benghazi, Libya.

Another concern of those at Tuesday's event: drones. One brought a sign that read "Don't drone me, bro."

"I believe my country is in trouble," Junstrom told a reporter.

Then he got back on his bullhorn. "Obama has to go. Obama knows everything."

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report.

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