Two tea party protests in Modesto drew more than 200 people Thursday who are angry about out-of-control government spending and health care reform, and fear that the country is well on the way to socialism.
The larger rally took place downtown at Tenth Street Plaza, in front of the city-county government building. A smaller rally was held later in the day at Modesto Junior College.
Much of the demonstrators' anger was directed at the federal government's bailouts of General Motors and banks, Democratic and Republican politicians in Sacramento and Washington — though the signs at the rallies lampooned President Barack Obama and other Democrats — and ballooning deficit spending.
"There is no way in hell I'd stay out of jail if I spent money like our politicians are spending it," said Denair retiree Earlene Post, who attended the Tenth Street Plaza rally, which drew as many as 120 people.
The Modesto rallies were among many around the country where kindred spirits convened on tax day to press for fiscal restraint from government leaders.
They built on momentum from last year's events, when the tea party emerged as a grass-roots force in national politics that politicians are hoping to harness in November's congressional elections.
Both Modesto events featured one of the leaders of the discredited "birther" movement, which claims that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore is not eligible to be president.
Orange County dentist and lawyer Orly Taitz also claimed Obama has used more than three dozen Social Security numbers in his life and the primary one he uses was issued in Connecticut to someone born in 1890.
"No one has uncovered a valid Social Security number for Barack Obama," Taitz told a crowd of about 100 at MJC's east campus quad.
Taitz, who is running in the Republican primary for secretary of state, also talked about her fear that the United States is well on the way to becoming a totalitarian government that tramples on the rights and freedoms of its citizens, like her native Soviet Union.
Her speech drew enthusiastic applause and after she finished she posed for pictures.
"Awesome," said Modestan Tim Zollin, when asked about Taitz's speech. "She sounds and talks like a true American. She is a true American."
Zollin, 45, said her remarks about Obama "hit it on the nose. She has the time to pursue this. He's not legitimate."
Some speakers brought up social issues at the Tenth Street Plaza rally, denouncing what they called the homosexual agenda in public schools and illegal immigration.
Modesto's Tea Party Patriots, which organized the Tenth Street Plaza event, avoided social issues and focused on their three core values: fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.
But organizer Ericka Chiara said her group had no control over who spoke when the microphone was open to everyone. Chiara said she was surprised when Taitz — who was invited to speak at MJC — showed up at Tenth Street Plaza.
The second rally focused on "Generation Debt" and was sponsored by MJC's College Republicans. Several GOP candidates spoke.
"We're afraid for our country because of too much debt," said Andrew McCormick, an MJC College Republican and ag business student. "And we are worrying about falling further into debt and other countries having to support us."
Michael Fowler, the College Republicans' political adviser, said Taitz was invited because the group could not snag any big name speakers who are experts on government deficits and spending. He said they spoke Thursday at tea party rallies in San Diego, Sacramento and other big California cities.
"I don't blame them," he said. "If you can speak in San Diego before 10,000 people, why come to MJC?"
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.