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Local political group protests IRS focus

POSTED: May 22, 2013 12:27 a.m.

A Gainesville police officer explains to tea party members protesting the Internal Revenue Service on Oak Street which signs meet code.

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Area residents took to the sidewalk in front of the local Internal Revenue Service office, waving signs and encouraging people driving by to honk in protest of the agency and revelations that some conservative groups have been targeted by IRS agents.

Last week’s report by a U.S. Treasury inspector general revealed that agents were inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups’ applications’ for tax-exempt status. Applications singled out included words such as “tea party” or “patriots.” IRS agents were checking that the groups, whose primary purpose is supposed to be social welfare, were not fundamentally political organizations.

People started gathering at 329 Oak St. in Gainesville, a building that houses an office of the IRS, along with other offices.

The protest of about 50 people was peaceful, although two Gainesville police officers stopped to talk with John Lipscomb, a member of Lanier Tea Party Patriots and one of the event coordinators. Lipscomb said he sent a letter to Police Chief Brian Kelly’s office within the 18-hour time frame required by city ordinances.

Lt. Gary Entrekin, an officer with the police department, said the office didn’t receive the letter.

“I agree with what you’re doing in principle, but the ordinance has not been followed,” Entrekin said.

Police spokesman Kevin Holbrook said the department uses secure servers that can sometimes delay an email in the
system. Officers allowed the protest to continue because it wasn’t obstructing the flow of vehicles or pedestrian sidewalk traffic, Holbrook said.

“I’m not trying to infringe on anybody’s right to peaceful assembly or anything like that,” Entrekin said. “I just want to make sure that it does stay peaceful.”

One sign was identified as in violation of the ordinance because of a wood border.

The protesters were all white, and many were older adults. There were some children at the event, including Ella Lipscomb, the 7-year-old granddaughter of protester Susan Collins. Collins, a Gainesville resident, said citizens are paying too many taxes already and she’s upset at the targeting of conservative groups.

“If we don’t speak up and try to change the country, then — her dad, her mom, they’re business owners — and it (income tax) is not a fair tax for them. And that’s what this would do, it would give a fair tax for everyone,” she said.

Collins supports replacing the income tax with the FairTax, a national sales tax.

Husband and wife Dave and Paige Rutledge, of Hiawassee, traveled to the Gainesville protest to protect First Amendment rights and to protest the IRS’s intrusiveness.

“What was really bad was the IRS targeting people from the Tea Party and asking them to give them all the words they use when they’re praying,” Paige Rutledge said. “That was like, that was it.”

Many people driving by, including a Gainesville School District bus driver, honked their horns at the protesters standing in the hot sun.

The local event was part of a protest in several cities across the nation promoted by the Tea Party Patriots, a national political group.


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