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Saturday, March 27, 2010

8,000 Attend Tea Party "Woodstock" Style Rally In Nevada

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Sarah Palin Rallies Thousands In Harry Reid’s Hometown

Sarah Palin told thousands of Tea Party activists gathered in the Nevada desert that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to explain his votes when he comes back to his hometown.

The wind whipped U.S. and Alabama flags behind Palin as she stood on the makeshift stage, holding a microphone and her notes as she spoke to the crowd.

Palin says the big government, big debt spending spree of Reid, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is over, and "you're fired." She told the crowd that Reid is "gambling away our future."

"Someone needs to tell him, this is not a crapshoot," Palin said.

She says those protesting the health care overhaul aren't inciting violence, but says they shouldn't sit down and shut up.

Palin was the main attraction at the rally about 60 miles south of Las Vegas. It kicks off a 42-city bus tour that ends in Washington on April 15.

Reid responded Saturday through a statement released by his Senate campaign.

"I'm happy so many people came to see my hometown of Searchlight and spend their out-of-state money, especially in these tough economic times," Reid said. "This election will be decided by Nevadans, not people from other states who parachuted in for one day to have a tea party."

Thousands gathered on a dirt lot in Reid's hometown for what organizers are calling the "Showdown in Searchlight."

The Tea Party Express had expected between 5,000 and 10,000 people. About 8,000 people were at the event as of 2 p.m., according to an estimate from Metro Police spokesman Jay Rivera. Traffic at one time was backed up about five miles from Searchlight.

Police said there were no arrests at the event, but police did briefly detain one person who had a gun in an open holster. Police also said they responded to one medical call for an person having a seizure at the event.

Cars and RVs filled the area as people set up lawn chairs and braced against a stiff wind whipping up dust clouds and blowing dozens of flags straight out.

The rally is targeting Reid and comes on the heels of the passage of the landmark health care reform legislation, which progressives are billing as the most important piece of social legislation since the mid-1960s passage of Medicare, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Passed on a party-line vote, Democrats say the bill expands coverage to the uninsured and cuts the exploding increase in health care costs.

But to the small-government Tea Party movement, the legislation represents an unconstitutional infringement of liberty and a further extension of the welfare state.

The movement is now a year old, having been formed in the early days of the Obama administration when it introduced plans to buck up a cratering economy with government spending, tax cuts and bailouts for the collapsing banking and auto industries. The movement continued to gather strength as the administration revealed ambitious plans to reform health care and curb carbon emissions.

The Republican Party has harnessed the energy of the movement and banked much of its near-term prospects on the movement's ability to turn enthusiasm into electoral victories, like that of the newly-elected governors of New Jersey and Virginia.

Republicans seemed to be on the upswing with the election of Scott Brown, taking the seat of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and breaking the Democrats' 60-seat supermajority.

As the Senate majority leader who has shepherded much of the administration's agenda through Congress, Reid is the Tea Party movement's biggest target. He suffers from low approval ratings among Republicans and independents and has yet to secure his base. Roughly a dozen Republicans have lined up in a GOP primary to face him in November.

Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons, also trailing in his own primary and trying to tap into the conservative grassroots, was to welcome today's speakers.

Traffic was backed up onto U.S. 95 as crowds filed in this morning. The site has taken on the look of an RV city with a festival atmosphere.

Police don't expect problems at Saturday's rally, but Metro Police are sending dozens of uniformed and plainclothes officers to patrol the crowd.

Ketha Verzani, 60, said she's a Republican, and came to the rally from Las Vegas "to stand with those who want to clean house."

She opposes the health care bill and worries Americans are losing their rights, including parental rights and gun rights.

"It seems like every day more and more of our rights are being taken away," Verzani said, sporting a Palin 2012 button to show support for the former Alaska governor who "doesn't beat around the bush."

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, appeared in Searchlight after spending Friday and Saturday morning campaigning for Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who led the 2008 ticket.

A string of polls has shown Reid is vulnerable in Nevada after pushing President Barack Obama's agenda in Congress. His standing has also been hurt by Nevada's double-digit unemployment and record foreclosure and bankruptcy rates.

Reid supporters planned their own rally Saturday about a mile from the tea party event.

Luis Salvador, 55, an unemployed fire sprinkler fitter, drove up from Las Vegas to support Reid, who he said has done a lot for the state and doesn't deserve the protest brought to his hometown.

"You don't come to a man's house and start creating a ruckus," said Salvador, a registered independent. He and several others taped signs saying "Nevada Needs Harry Reid" to the side of a truck near the highway that runs through town.

Another Reid supporter, Judy Hill, 62, said she doesn't understand the hatred of Reid. The longtime Democrat from Searchlight, a town of about 1,000, said she thinks people just don't know the man she calls a friend.

"They listen to the rhetoric. I think he's very misunderstood and under-appreciated," she said.

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Sources: Las Vegas, MSNBC, Youtube, Google Maps

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