LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Members of the Tea Party Patriots group rallied in downtown Los Angeles and nationwide Tuesday following allegations that the Internal Revenue Service improperly flagged conservative organizations for additional scrutiny.
KNX 1070′s Vytas Safronikas reports demonstrations were held at hundreds of IRS offices around the country, including downtown L.A., San Diego, and Laguna Niguel.
Dozens of protesters were lined up at one IRS location along 6th Street waving signs and the American flag following acknowledgement from IRS officials that some conservative groups received inappropriate attention.
“They’ve taken our Tea Party and just screwed us with absolutely insane questions,” said one protester.
“I’m really disgusted that the government and the IRS have engaged in this kind of intimidation of their opponents, and I think that anybody who looks at the history of this country has gotta come out here and take a stand against this kind of thing,” another demonstrator said.
In addition to Los Angeles and Orange County, there were also rallies outside IRS offices in Atlanta; Louisville; Chicago; Cherry Hill, N.J.; Kansas City, Mo.; Philadelphia; and Providence, R.I., among others.
In Washington, a few dozen people congregated outside the IRS headquarters, listening to speeches and carrying signs reading “Audit the IRS” and “Don’t audit me, Bro.”
Shoshana Weissmann, a 20-year-old George Washington University student who works at a political consulting firm, said she was troubled by the IRS’ actions.
“I just think what they did was inappropriate and if they were doing this to liberals, I would be out here, too,” said Weissmann, a Republican who said she is not affiliated with the tea party. “It’s scary to think the IRS is capable of this.”
In the Atlanta rally, speakers included Gov. Nathan Deal, who said “you don’t have anything to worry about on the state level.” Debbie Dooley of Tea Party Patriots said in Atlanta her group spent some $250,000 on legal fees in battling with the IRS, which she said wanted donor and volunteer names and copies of Facebook comments.
Kansas City protesters included Vicki Watkins, a 58-year-old substitute teacher from Liberty, Mo.
“This makes me very sad that an arm of our government thinks they can strong-arm other people and get away with it,” she said, adding: “I think that was a way to get conservative groups to throw in the towel.”
Some former IRS staffers say Cincinnati employees shouldn’t be vilified. Former senior manager Bonnie Esrig said the office was a nonpolitical environment, and tax-exempt status workloads had soared because of court decisions and rules changes. Esrig, who said she wasn’t involved in handling the conservative group applications, said she believed the workers were trying to streamline the research and avoid repetition.
“I don’t believe anybody had a political agenda,” said Esrig, who retired from the Cincinnati office in January after 38 years to go into consulting.
She and others are skeptical about initial IRS suggestions that a handful of low-level employees were responsible for the practice, saying it’s unlikely workers would have developed and followed procedures that focused on conservative groups without any supervisors being aware.
Republicans in Congress are pressing investigations exploring their suspicions that the targeting was politically motivated and involved higher-ups. President Barack Obama’s administration has said no senior officials were involved in targeting conservative groups.
A Chicago rally of some 100 people was led by former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a suburban Chicago Republican who lost his seat in 2012 after being among tea party candidates who won office in 2010. He decried “crimes committed against Americans” and said the IRS targeting should spark renewed interest in the tea party movement.
“Let this day again be the day when freedom-loving Americans stood up and said … `I’m fighting,”‘ Walsh said. “The only way this is going to turn around is if people in the streets take back the country.”
Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, a group that organized protests Tuesday, said the IRS was increasing public sympathy for the tea party.
“The American people see we were targeted, we were discriminated against, and our concerns about a government that is too large are valid concerns,” she said in Washington.
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