Tea party rally upbraids 'gangster government'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tea party protesters marked tax day today with exhortations against "gangster government" and appeals from Republicans seeking their grass-roots clout in November elections, a prospect both tempting and troubling to those in the loose movement.

Several thousand rallied in Washington's Freedom Plaza in the shadow of the Ronald Reagan office building, capping a national protest tour launched in the dust of Nevada and finishing in the capital that inspires tea party discontent like no other place.

Allied activists demonstrated from Maine to Hawaii in smaller groups, all joined in disdain for government spending and - on the April 15 federal tax filing deadline — what they see as the Washington tax grab.

The rally in brilliant sunshine was spirited but modest in size, lacking the star power of tea party favorite Sarah Palin, who roused the masses at earlier stops of the Tea Party Express in its cross-country bus tour. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won roars of affirmation as she accused President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats of trying to take over health care, energy, financial services and other broad swaths of the economy.

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