No actual tea made it into the Tennessee River on Wednesday, but protesters say their message is just as strong as the 1773 Boston Tea Party.
About 2,000 people crowded the lawn near Ross's Landing for the Chattanooga Tax Day Tea Party. The event was meant to protest increasing spending and high taxes, organizers said.
They hope their message, combined with the uproar coming from hundreds of other tea parties across the nation, will be noticed by those in government.
"You just heard the collective feet of the people coming down all at once," said Martin Johnson, a Hixson resident who attended the protest. "We aren't going to take it anymore, and we want our leaders to listen to us for a change."
The tea parties were promoted by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington and led by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey. The protests were not meant to be partisan in nature, organizers said.
"Our government has been out of control for a long time, way before now, during Republican and Democratic administrations," said Jeremy Wilkey, of Soddy-Daisy. "We're looking for change, and the change is smaller government."
Protesters held signs that demanded lower taxes, the return of some portion of their paychecks and common sense from elected leaders. Several took direct jabs at President Barack Obama and his stimulus plan.
"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty," said Mark West, quoting Thomas Jefferson. An Ooltewah CPA and business owner, Mr. West organized the local event. "What we want now is for government to have a healthy fear of the people."
Across the nation, crowds turned out for similar rallies. In Nashville, about 3,000 people protested on the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol building. In Knoxville, about 1,700 people turned out for a protest at World's Fair Park. Counterprotesters in much smaller numbers gathered at the site, too.
In Atlanta, thousands of people gathered outside the Capitol, where Fox News Channel conservative pundit Sean Hannity was set to broadcast his show Wednesday night, the Associated Press reported.
In Washington, D.C., protesters even threw what appeared to be a box of tea bags toward the White House, causing a brief lockdown at the compound.
Laurie Dorn said she and co-worker Angela Russ decided to attend the protest because it was their way of taking action against reckless spending.
"We didn't want to sit at home and grumble. We wanted to come out and be a part of something," Ms. Dorn said. "We hope that our elected officials realize that constituents have a voice, and that they need to listen to us."