The tea party movement returned Wednesday to the city from which its revolutionary spirit was born, with Sarah Palin headlining a rally before the activists' cross-country tour ends in Washington on Tax Day.
More than 3,000 people assembled on Boston Common in the morning sunshine, just across town from Boston Harbor, where colonists upset about British taxation without government representation staged the original Tea Party in 1773.
"I feel like I'm taking care of my son and daughter and grandchildren's business," said Mary Lou O'Connell, 72, of Duxbury. She listed "deceit" and "gentle corrosion of the political process" as two concerns and toted a sign reading, "Start Deleting Corruption Nov. 2010."
Another attendee, John Arathuzik, 69, of Topsfield, said he had never been especially politically active until he saw the direction of the Obama administration.
"I feel like I can do one of two things: I can certainly vote in November, which I'll do, and I can provide support for the peaceful protest about the direction this country is taking," said Arathuzik, a veteran who clutched a copy of the Constitution distributed by one of the vendors who had set up shop amid locals heading to work and walking their dogs.
A festive mood filled the air. A band played patriotic music, and hawkers sold yellow Gadsden flags emblazoned with the words "Don't Tread on Me" and the image of a rattlesnake.
Some 237 years after the original Tea Party, Wednesday's speaking roster included conservative talk show host Mark Williams.
He celebrated the movement's involvement in helping Republican Scott Brown stage a political upset in January by winning the U.S. Senate seat held for nearly a half-century by Democrat Edward M. Kennedy. He said he understood Brown not attending while Congress held hearings about the Iranian nuclear program.
"That's a heck of a lot more important than him being here right now," Williams told a cheering crowd.
Regardless of his official duties, Brown kept the movement at a respectful distance during his campaign last winter.
If he gets too close, the freshman senator, who's still getting used to his national profile, risks being aligned with the tea party's more radical followers, who have questioned the legitimacy of everything from President Barack Obama's U.S. birthplace to his college degree.
To get re-elected in 2012, Brown "needs to present a moderate image. Going to a tea party rally is about the last thing he needs," said Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Brown's alma mater, Tufts University.
"Brown doesn't want to turn his back on his potential supporters, but he doesn't want any photographs in the midst of an overly enthusiastic or bombastic event," the professor added.
The rally, held across the street from the Massachusetts Statehouse, was the next-to-last event in the 20-day, 47-city Tea Party Express tour concluding Thursday in Washington.
Palin also helped kick off the tour in Searchlight, Nev., hometown of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democratic target of the movement.
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