DENVER–More than 100 protesters jammed onto the sidewalk in front of the Internal Revenue Service office Tuesday to decry the agency’s targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
“IRS=Bully” was among the messages on signs held by demonstrators, who took turns speaking to the crowd with a megaphone as passing cars honked in support during lunch hour in downtown Denver.
“We are done being shut down, shut out and shut up, period,” said Randy Corporon, chairman of the Arapahoe County Tea Party, which organized the protest.
The demonstration was one of more than a dozen protests nationwide coordinated by Tea Party Patriots. Other cities reporting rallies outside IRS offices Tuesday included Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
At least four Colorado conservative groups have reported encountering lengthy waiting periods and intrusive questions as part of their application process for tax-exempt status.
The Denver crowd was fired up, shouting support for speakers and chanting “More freedom! Less government!” Several police officers and the building manager monitored the protest, while people inside the building could be seen filming the rally with their cell phones.
The building, 1999 Broadway, is privately held and includes both government and private offices, according to a property manager.
Philip Sekar of Denver, who said he immigrated to the United States from India because he values freedom, said he no longer recognizes his adopted country.
“We don’t live in America anymore,” said Sekar. “We live in a banana republic.”
IRS officials have admitted that they singled out conservative groups, often those with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names, for heightened attention. A top IRS official, Lois Lerner, indicated Tuesday that she will invoke her constitutional right against self-incrimination when she appears Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Several speakers said they had been audited or investigated by the IRS, which they now attribute to their involvement with conservative causes and candidates.
“This is about the IRS in your business and in your face,” said Autumn Harbinger of Denver. “They’re out of line.”
Corporon said the heated backlash to the IRS disclosures show that the Tea Party movement, which has been less visible since its heyday in 2010, is on the upswing.
“Reports of the death of the Tea Party have been significantly over-exaggerated,” said Corporon.
Shouted a protester from the crowd, “The party’s just getting started!”