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© 2011 Idaho Press-Tribune

BOISE — Hundreds of citizens gathered outside the Idaho Statehouse Monday morning to take part in the Idaho Tea Party’s Converge on the Capitol event.

People from all over Idaho traveled to attend the event coordinated by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

“We’re gathered here today to stand up and to speak out for our freedom and our liberty as Americans and as people of Idaho,” Steve Owen, Idaho Freedom Foundation chair, said.

Held on Martin Luther King Jr. and Idaho Human Rights Day, organizers noted the significance of their message in light of the holiday.

“We’re here to celebrate the most precious human right that there is, and that is freedom,” Owen said.

Gary Brown of the Idaho Values Alliance led the group in a prayer and Nampa High School students Christina Leavell and Clayton McFarland sang the national anthem. Children from the crowd were invited to the steps of the Statehouse to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Spending key issue

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo was in Washington D.C. Monday and was unable to attend the event. His press secretary Lindsay Nothern read a statement from the senator, which outlined Crapo’s goals to cosponsor legislation to balance the budget and bring federal spending under control.

“Keep raising your voices and sending your concerns,” the letter appealed to the crowd.

Tea Party goals for the government fit with Crapo’s statement. Owen said the government should focus on cuts to spending and should not raise taxes.

“We don’t want any more taxes,” he said. “We are taxed enough already.”

Idaho Freedom Foundation Executive Director Wayne Hoffman encouraged those in attendance to be civil in debate about issues and not to “throw stones.”

“The battle that we engage in today is a battle of ideas,” he said.

Others gather in protest

About 75 protesters from the Idaho Sanity Alliance gathered across the street from the Tea Party event. Organizer Whitney Rearick said she did not disagree completely with the Tea Party speakers.

“They’re angry and I get that. There’s a lot to be angry about right now,” she said. “I feel like they’re directing their anger at the wrong group.”

She said the group’s policies and rhetoric distract people from important issues. Government should focus on helping Idahoans who have fallen on hard times in the recession and address high unemployment and foreclosure rates, she said.

“We need to be working on getting out of the recession,” Rearick said.

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