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WASHINGTON — Thousands of Tea Party supporters marched to the foot of Capitol Hill on Sunday, declaring their determination to topple the Democratic majority in Congress on Election Day.
“If we do not succeed in November, all that once was good and great about this country could someday be gone,” warned Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, the chairman of the House Republican Conference. He added, “Let’s give them a November that they never forget.”
The event, organized by FreedomWorks, a libertarian advocacy group that has helped the Tea Party grow, was a repeat of a march on Washington that was a defining moment for the nascent movement a year ago. And it was intended as a political bookend to the religious revival that Glenn Beck called for at the Lincoln Memorial two weeks ago, drawing many of the same people.
This crowd was not nearly as large as the one that marched last year, or the one at Mr. Beck’s rally. Ending up on the western slope of the Capitol, it stretched back, stopping just short of the National Mall. But in many ways the crowd was louder than the one that had amassed for Mr. Beck. He had asked people to leave signs at home; FreedomWorks encouraged people to bring their signs, and to get loud.
The crowd cheered wildly as speakers celebrated the victories of Tea Party candidates who have upset establishment candidates in Republican primaries, and proclaimed that the Tea Party would now turn its ire against the Democrats.
“I believe we’ve got the Republican Party’s attention — we’ve been beating the establishment all over the country,” said Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader and the chairman of FreedomWorks, to a burst of cheering. “It’s time we give the same lesson to the other party.”
Mr. Pence taunted the Democratic leadership: “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose your job. A recovery is when Nancy Pelosi loses her job.”
As the crowd cheered, he gave a taste of what a Republican-led Congress might look like, calling for a repeal of the health care overhaul legislation “lock, stock and barrel,” and an end to “bailouts, once and for all.”
Speakers talked about the 10 points in the so-called Contract From America, a Tea Party manifesto that was created online as people proposed and then voted on what they wanted Congress to do. The provisions include a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget and requiring all legislation to state the exact provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to enact such a law.
“We run things,” Ryan Hecker, a young Tea Party activist from Houston who conceived of the contract, told the crowd. “Not only should we be listened to, we should be shown deference.”
Mr. Hecker noted the remarkable growth of the Tea Party movement over the last year. “It is incredible the amount of impact we’ve had, and we’re not going to stop,” he said. And he warned that the movement had to be vigilant against being co-opted by “Republican elitists who see us only as a vote.”
Ginni Thomas, a founder of the Tea Party group Liberty Central and the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, continued the theme of anti-elitism, declaring, “Every day citizens make a difference, it’s not the elitist rulers.”
“Let’s not let this country be destroyed by the elitist politicians with bad ideas,” she added.
Signs in the crowd reflected the antigovernment ethos of the movement, calling for spending cuts and an end to the “Marxist income tax,” and quoting the libertarian icon Ayn Rand. “Redistribute my work ethic,” read one sign. Others called for a Fair Tax — a national sales tax to replace the income tax — and a repeal of the health care bill passed in March. “Down our throats on March 21st,” one sign said, “up yours on Nov. 2nd.”
But others reflected anger about illegal immigration — “Uncle Sam wants you to speak English,” read one — and the planned Islamic cultural center near ground zero, which many Tea Party supporters have rallied against. “Obama Creates Jobs at Ground Zero,” read one sign, over a picture of a mosque.
Speaker after speaker complained about portrayals of the Tea Party movement as extremist.
But signs in the crowd did not shy away from outright anger. “By ballot or bullet, restoration is coming,” read one, held over a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
And as much as many Tea Party leaders have disavowed the “birthers” who question whether President Obama is a citizen, other signs in the crowd cast doubt on the validity of his birth certificate. “Undocumented worker” read one, over a picture of the president. “We don’t want a Kenyan reject,” read another.
Kim Mazurek, 44, a mother from Minneapolis, said she had come to protest the loss of freedom, which she defined as the freedom to make her own choices with her money and to make her own choices about health care. “Government is in too much of our lives,” Ms. Mazurek said.
She felt compelled to come, she said, to show the strength of the Tea Party movement heading into the midterms. “If everybody here can talk to one person,” she said, gesturing to the crowd, “they’ll talk to somebody else, and it’ll spread.”
Protestors also rallied in Sacramento, before a plastic replica of the Statue of Liberty, and in St. Louis.