JEFFERSON CITY — Bearing stickers, flags and hand-drawn posters, more than 300 supporters of the tea party movement rallied Tuesday on the Capitol lawn.
The event was hosted by Americans for Prosperity and organized by state director Carl Bearden. He said he hoped the rally would prompt citizens to "engage and take action," whether it be at the event or into the future.
Michael Reagan, a talk show host and son of former President Ronald Reagan, was the keynote speaker.
"(Reagan) represents the conservative values and principles that America needs to hear right now," Bearden said.
Reagan said that at age 8, he proposed an increase in his weekly $1 allowance. His father delivered a 35-minute explanation of government taxation, Reagan said, ultimately prompting the younger Reagan to offer his father back half of his allowance.
Rather than accept the 50 cents, the former president told his son, "When there is a president elected who gives me a tax break, I will give you a higher allowance."
In regard to the federal health care plan, Reagan told the crowd, "We're going to prove this is unconstitutional. This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong."
Reagan also appealed for bipartisan support.
"People like to say this is a Republican movement," he said. "This is a people's movement."
But the tea party movement does not resonate with everyone. Protester and Capitol intern Trevor Collins, 22, of Jefferson City, raised concerns about racial divisions with the group.
"Just look at the racial makeup of this gathering ... I'm the only person of color I saw here, and that's a damn shame," Collins said. "There are plenty of black and Latino people who are conservative, who believe in small government."
Collins also spoke out against media propaganda and racist iconography he said are associated with the tea party movement. Collins said some conservative media outlets were not being honest with citizens.
"They're tricking people," Collins said. "They're confusing them. Many (tea party supporters) weren't very politically cognizant or aware before the election of our first African-American president."
Reagan addressed claims that the tea party movement provided an outlet for racist groups to infiltrate.
"Don't let that stuff get in the way of what you're trying to accomplish," he said.
Melissa Shamp, 33, traveled from Kansas City to volunteer at the event. Wearing a green sticker that read "Stop the spending," Shamp said she was "here to listen and learn."
"I care," Shamp said. "I care about the deterioration of our government. We're not a silent majority anymore, we're a vocal majority. These changes are being pushed upon us, and we don't want them."
Brunswick couple Shirley and Harry DeWeese brought their sons, Carl, 10, and John, 6, to the rally. Shirley said she hoped to impress the importance of civic involvement upon her sons.
"When you believe something, you stand up and speak," Shirley DeWeese said.
D. Jayamanne of Columbia sat in the shade watching the crowd from across the parking lot. Carrying a sign that read "I am not your ATM," Jayamanne said his biggest concerns were government spending and tax increases.
"We need to protest this. They're spending too much of our money," Jayamanne said. "Taxes have gone up, and they are going to go up more. All they do is waste it."