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Tea, anyone?
The Fredericksburg Tea Party tax protest is Wednesday

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Date published: 4/13/2009

THE ORIGINAL Boston Tea Party has become an icon of protest, invoked even by such a faraway activist as India's Mahatma Gandhi. Now, it's seeing a new revival here in the United States.

In December 1773, colonists in Boston, angry over taxation by the British Crown, refused to allow ships carrying tea to be offloaded, instead instructing their captains to carry the onerous cargo back to England. But the royal governor would not let the ships leave, prompting a stalemate that was resolved when 30 to 130 men, some wearing American Indian garb, boarded the ships and threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.

Samuel Adams--God-fearing brewer and patriot--called it a "principled protest," and it is in that spirit that modern iterations have sprung up, including this very year a fast-spreading movement. Furious at the fast-track passage of a $787 billion stimulus package followed by a pork-laden omnibus spending bill, some Americans have taken to the streets. In late February, tea parties erupted more or less spontaneously in 50 cities, fueled by messages posted online. More than 30,000 people peacefully took part.

Now President Obama's proposed $3.6 trillion budget is generating new protests. More than 600 tea parties are slated for Tax Day, April 15, in locations ranging from Rochester, Minn., to Rochester, N.Y., and from Grants Pass, Ore., to Charleston, S.C.

Virginia isn't about to be left out of Wednesday's shindigs. "Taxed Enough Already" gatherings are planned for Virginia Beach, Newport News, Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville, Staunton, Winchester, Abingdon, Reston, Culpeper, and, yes, Fredericksburg. Virginia organizer Coby Dillard told the Culpeper Star-Exponent, "It's important for those in Virginia who are displeased with the fiscal irresponsibility displayed by both political parties in Washington and Richmond to have a voice to express their frustrations and concerns."

Frustrations and concerns indeed. Michael Boskin, professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, estimates that the Obama spending plan would "leave a discounted present-value legacy of $6.5 trillion of additional future taxes," which would saddle the average American family with a tax debt of $163,000. Critics warn, too, of hyper-inflation and ongoing economic instability should Washington's spending continue to escalate.

Popular conservative commentators such as Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin, along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, no mean historian, have added their support to the tea party movement. But by and large, organizers have resisted attempts to be identified with the Republican Party, opting to remain a bipartisan, grass-roots movement.

Fredericksburg's tea party is set for Wednesday at noon on Princess Anne Street in front of the downtown post office. There will be no ships, no harbor, and probably very little tea--but the sentiment remains the same as in Boston in 1773. When government taxation becomes oppressive, free men cry out. Eventually, high-handed governments must take their lumps.