By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – As local Tea Party supporters carrying protest signs and flags began walking in front of Tupelo’s IRS office, a Department of Homeland Security official asked to speak to organizers of the gathering.
The federal employee asked Grant Sowell if the group had a permit to gather and then warned the group to stay away from business entrances. After a short exchange, the Homeland Security official backed away as protesters continued walking in a small circle.
Moments earlier, Sowell encouraged about 40 supporters of the Tupelo Tea Party to protest peacefully, even smile as they carried out their constitutional rights to express themselves.
After speaking to the Homeland Security official who drove from Memphis to Tupelo to monitor the protest, Sowell wasn’t impressed.
“It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars,” he said, walking in front of the IRS office on Troy Street in Fairpark.
Incensed with government abuse of powers, the conservative group of retirees, home schooling parents, youth ministers from Tupelo and surrounding areas and others gathered to protest recent admissions of the IRS targeting conservative-learning organizations seeking tax exempt status from the federal government.
While no Tea Party organization in Northeast Mississippi applied for tax-exempt status, Jackson-based Mississippi Tea Party Inc., received a detailed response asking 21 follow-up questions about the group.
Holding a sign critical of the IRS abusing its power, Johnnie McInnis of Baldwyn said recent events convinced her to join in the demonstration.
“I’ve just been seeing so much abuse of power in Washington and it scares me,” she said.
Holding a yellow “don’t tread on me” flag and posing in front of the homeland security vehicle nearby, Monica Smith said she believed the IRS controversy will encourage more Tea Party activity throughout the country.
“This has awakened many members of the Tea Party who have gone to sleep,” she said. “We’re definitely awake now.”