Indiana Tea Partiers United In Cause | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Indiana Tea Partiers United In Cause

Tea Party activists took to the streets this week to protest government spending and taxation, health care changes, and everything that they dislike about the Obama administration. They use words like “restore,” “take back” and “fight.” Phrases like that have caused some to label those in the Tea Party movement as “extremists.” But Tea Partiers in Northwest Indiana say the label is unfair.

Faith Jones says she never could have imagined herself as the leader of a local political movement.

But that's exactly what the grandmother has become as head of the Northwest Indiana Patriots, a group tied in with the national Tea Party campaign.

JONES: Barack Obama is my president. He's your president too. I have one thing to say: You're one and done.

That's Jones speaking before a few hundred supporters outside the Porter County Courthouse in Valparaiso this week.

JONES: This is all about freedom. And to all those yes votes on Obama health care plan, we will remember come November.

Jones grew up nearby in Gary and spent part of her life working for the local utility company.

Now living in Valpo, she works at a performing arts center. Jones started the Northwest Indiana Patriots about a year ago, having never before made speeches in front of large crowds.

JONES: If somebody said that I would be doing this today, I wouldn't have believed it. But I believe in God and I really believe that God said, really, honestly, if not now then when?

At the event, speakers talked about President Obama's alleged ties to Muslim leaders, took shots at local Democratic congressmen and promoted the book by Sarah Palin, a Tea Party icon.

On its web site, the Northwest Indiana Patriots say their mission is to “restore” fiscal responsibility and a limited, more accountable government through citizen activism.

A separate group that's accused of sending threatening emails to several governors also states it wants to “restore” America, although that group says it wants to peacefully dismantle parts of the government.

The buzz words used by both groups raises a red flag for political scientist Jennifer Hora.

HORA: The language that they're using is language that is typically used by more extreme groups. They talk about taking our government back. ... That's not language that normal political parties use.

Hora teaches at Valparaiso University, just a few blocks away from where the Northwest Indiana Patriots held their rally.

HORA: They are making very broad, sweeping statements, very anti-government. So, I think that's why the term extreme has been applied to them.

At the rally this week, activists held signs, some with “No to Obama-Care” “Less Government, More Freedom, and “I want my country back.”

At a previous rally, signs read “Our Forefathers would be shooting by now,” and “the second revolution is coming.”

OPRISKO: I looked at them as if they were an extreme group. They weren't in the norm or mainstream of America where I've been raised.

That's Cheryl Oprisko, a member of the school board in neighboring Portage.

Oprisko objected when the Northwest Indiana Patriots invited the city's high school ROTC program to participate at the Tea Party rally. Oprisko's stance drew outrage from Patriot members, who threatened to protest a school board meeting.

The ROTC students were eventually told not to go as a group after Oprisko called U.S. Marine officials in Washington DC.

OPRISKO: The kids need to stay out of politics. It did concern me as a parent and as a school board member.

Local Tea Party leader Faith Jones says the extremist label some have put on them is unwarranted.

She says she's part of a conservative movement to cause change at the ballot box.

JONES: We're not about violence. We're not about any harm. What we're doing is waking them up. If it causes harm to vote, that's ridiculous.

And with some big elections in Indiana just over six months way, including a U.S. Senate race to replace the retiring Evan Bayh, Jones says her group plans to keep up the pressure.

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