Protesters blame Schaefer at anti-tax rally

October 20, 1991|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- An anti-tax demonstration outside the Governor's Mansion yesterday morning -- one of many such protests across the United States -- drew only about 150 taxpayers, but what it lacked in size it made up for in rancor.

When Gov. William Donald Schaefer appeared by the iron fence surrounding the mansion about 10:45 a.m., the crowd in Lawyers Square began booing and chanting "Recall!" and "Pay cut!" One man screamed that the governor was "incompetent."

Mr. Schaefer told reporters that one of the rally leaders was "a rabble-rouser" and repeatedly called the most vocal protester "big mouth."

The Annapolis rally was one of 200 demonstrations planned for around the country as part of "Taxpayer's Action Day," promoted by the Washington-based group Citizens Against Government Waste. The group's president, Alan L. Keyes, was the featured speaker here and at other rallies in Baltimore, Upper Marlboro, Rockville and Washington.

Mr. Keyes, a Montgomery County Republican and potential candidate against Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski next year, arrived too late to witness the protesters' confrontation with the governor.

But he joined the criticism of Mr. Schaefer, saying that the governor preferred to cut programs for the poor and elderly and for law enforcement "instead of looking for waste, mismanagement and abuse."

Arriving near the pagoda in Patterson Park about 1 p.m., Mr. Keyes told a gathering of about 50 people that the more taxes the government imposes, the more power it wrests from its citizens.

"These dollars aren't just dollars," he said. "They are human choices and human lives."

Jim O'Donovan, 71, a retired city truck mechanic who lives in Butcher's Hill, agreed.

"You're goddam right taxes are too high," he said. "For what we pay, we get nothing."

The Annapolis rally was the centerpiece of the protest in Maryland, drawing anti-tax leaders such as John O'Neill, president of the Maryland Taxpayer's Association; Robert Shaffer, president of the Anne Arundel County Taxpayers' Association; and William S. Shepard, former Republican candidate for governor.

Some protest leaders expressed disappointment at the small turnout. Mr. O'Neill, who led an unsuccessful campaign last year to limit Baltimore County property tax increases, told the outdoor audience, "Your power is pretty weak."

In recent months, he said, voters seeking new taxes to avoid cuts in services have been making a lot more noise than foes of taxes.

As he spoke, protesters noticed Mr. Schaefer was standing in the mansion parking area, listening. They began to boo, and then to chant, "Recall! Recall!"

The governor, meanwhile, shook his head and told reporters that he felt "sorry" for the protesters -- many of whom were from the Eastern Shore -- because they didn't understand how much the state had done for them.

In his speech, Mr. O'Neill criticized the state for not spending enough on roads on the Shore.

"He doesn't know what he's talking about," the governor said. "He's just a rabble-rouser."

Protesters quickly gathered near the fence, chanting "Pay cut!" and trying to get the governor to accept tea bags, symbols of their protest. A line of police stopped them from getting too close.

Paul Grimm, a 36-year-old engineer from Pasadena, shouted that the governor was driving high-salaried private industry jobs out of the state by seeking tax increases.

"You got a big mouth," the governor said.

"Yeah, Schaefer, I'm sick of you and the legislature!" Mr. Grimm yelled.

"I'm sick of you, too," the governor responded.

Later, Mr. Grimm yelled: "You're incompetent! You, sir, have got us over a billion dollars in our debt and we're going to have to pay for your incompetence!"

Delegate Louis L. DePazzo, D-Baltimore County, who led a contingent of taxpayers from his district, shook his head after the confrontation. "To have a couple of nuts stand there and scream at the governor? It's counterproductive" he said.

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