ANNAPOLIS -- Angered by wasteful government spending and the specter of higher taxes, about 100 people huddled in the dark in front of the State House last night to vent their frustration and kick off a national day of tax protest.
"You are at the vanguard of a nationwide movement," Alan L. Keyes, a former candidate for the U.S. Senate, told the group. "Enough is enough. We have had enough of government waste. We've had enough of excess taxation."
The protest was sponsored by Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based anti-tax group headed by Mr. Keyes, a conservative Republican who lost the Senate race two years ago to incumbent Democrat Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.
The event was intended as the national kick-off for today's declared "Taxpayer's Action Day." A series of rallies is planned in at least 150 congressional districts.
Billed as non-partisan, last night's event seemed more TC Republican pep rally than anything else as Mr. Keyes railed against the Democratically-controlled Congress for advocating higher taxes, rather than spending cuts, to reduce the federal deficit.
William S. Shepard, the Republican nominee for governor, said Gov. William Donald Schaefer should be "booted out of office." He led the crowd in a chant of "Coward" after recalling the governor's decision not to debate him before the Nov. 6 election.
"I think everybody's as troubled as I am over too-high spending," said Mr. Shepard, blaming Mr. Schaefer's policies for a projected state deficit of up to $322 million. "Maryland is in serious trouble, serious financial trouble."
Two more rallies are scheduled today in Montgomery and Baltimore counties, where proposals to cap property tax revenue are on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Baltimore County rally is set for noon in front of the county courthouse in Towson.
Braced against a cold wind last evening, the agitated but hardy taxpayers waved their brooms -- symbol of a "clean sweep" of incumbents -- as well as protest signs and flashlights.
Even the 800-number for Citizens Against Government Waste echoed their hostility: "1-800-BE-ANGRY."