Saturday, March 17th, 2018

America Goes to Washington


Posted on Thursday, September 24, 2009 by Deb Phillips | 13 Comments 

ONE PHOTOGRAPHER’S VIEW: It’s interesting how a story can be slanted by the selection of certain photos and the omission of others. A picture may be “worth a thousand words,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean those words will be truthful and accurate. Especially in today’s political climate, and especially concerning the Tea Party movement that began in April 2009.

One case in point is the divergent media coverage and commentary on the September 12, 2009 Tea Party event that was held in Washington, D.C. For example, The Huffington Post’s photos paint a somewhat dark and negative view, depicting Tea Party attendees as crass and shallow. Yet that’s not what this photographer saw.

Flags were lifted high by the crowd at the Washington, DC Tea Party.

Flags were lifted high throughout the morning and afternoon of September 12, 2009 during the Washington, D.C. Tea Party event.

I certainly don’t deny the presence of the less-than-tasteful signs shown in the photos published by The Huffington Post. It’s just that in my trek along the march route down Pennsylvania Avenue, and all around the Capitol grounds, I saw a comparatively miniscule number of distasteful signs out of the huge crowd of enthusiastic, considerably polite attendees.

Man holding Oregon sign

I'm sure this is one of Oregon's finest!

Whence Comes the “Vitriol”?

There are also those who have described Tea Party — and Town Hall — attendees as vitriolic and racist. But much of the vitriol seems to come, instead, from the Left, including Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow. In their descriptions of the Tea Party movement and the Town Hall meetings, the “truth” has been stretched, distorted or fabricated.

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann also accused Fox News of “ginning up” the D.C. Tea Party crowd, based on a short clip they showed of a Fox News producer whipping up crowd excitement during a live report by Fox News reporter, Griff Jenkins.

But Olbermann’s commentary gave a false impression of the Tea Party crowd. The crowd did not have to be coaxed to be loud, excited and demonstrative. I know because I was at the front of the crowd for several hours (near where that Fox News taping occurred) photographing the crowd’s genuine, sustained enthusiasm .

The Tea Party crowd marches down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.

The Tea Party crowd makes its way from Freedom Plaza down Pennsylvania Avenue. Destination: The U.S. Capitol.

Although the all-too-common misrepresentations given by some media pundits, celebs and other well-known individuals haven’t really surprised me, I’ve nevertheless marveled at the vast difference between how some on the Left have described the D.C. Tea Party and what I personally witnessed there.

Signs addressing the disapproval of socialism were a frequent sight at the DC Tea Party March.

Signs addressing disapproval of socialism were a frequent sight along the march route and elsewhere on the Capitol grounds.

Exactly What Did This Photographer See?

I saw patriotism. I saw it in the flags lifted high and blowing in the breeze. I saw patriotism in impassioned, friendly eyes and in the homemade signs, and the red-white-and-blue clothing. I heard patriotism, too, in the singing and the enthusiastic chants of the crowd responding to the Tea Party speakers.

A crowd of friendly Americans lift their flags and voices at the Washington, DC Tea Party.

It's a thrilling experience to be in the midst of a crowd of cheering Americans. They don't look scary to me!

Some of the homemade signs I saw were very creative, with topics including cap and trade, health care, national security, fiscal irresponsibility and dishonesty. Granted, some signs were a little edgy and not something I’d want to hold forth myself. But for the most part, the signs were decent and civil, albeit employing hyperbole and in-your-face opinions.

Some detractors — Nancy Pelosi, in particular — would have Tea Party and Town Hall attendees, and all like-minded individuals, to “curb our enthusiasm.” Why? Because, according to Pelosi and others, the Tea Party/Town Hall “rhetoric” is one of violence, hatred or racism. Critics have also been dismissive and condescending of Tea Party/Town Hall participants, refusing to believe that their expressions represent a genuine grassroots uprising

Youth climb onto a statue at the DC Tea Party.

The youth among us were staking their own claims of patriotism.

While it’s possible that a few individuals who attended the D.C. Tea Party had their “rowdy” moments (although I never personally witnessed any, nor have I heard of any such documented incidents), those individuals would have been far from being the “scary, out-of-control, gun-toting vigilantes” that some partisans and media spokespersons have alleged. If indeed such “vigilantes” attended the D.C. Tea Party, they were certainly in the minority.

Crowd at the Capitol for the DC Tea Party event.

This shot was taken early on as the crowd was gathering for the lineup of speakers.

Instead, what this photographer saw was a beautiful sea of Americans peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights. They were shouting from their hearts and minds, rallying together as one to say: “We the People have come to Washington to be heard.”

A close-up of Texans in the crowd at the DC Tea Party.

Texas was proudly represented by an enthusiastic contingent.

On September 12, 2009 the message from the D.C. Tea Party crowd was loud and clear to those who are listening: “Our liberties were hard-fought-for, and we will not sit idly by and watch them be stolen from us and from our children.”

A young girl waves the flag.

Wave high the flag, for our freedoms have been secured by the sacrifices of brave men and women. Freedom is NOT free.

Visit the Photo Gallery

These are just a few of the photos I made in D.C. on September 12, 2009. To get a more complete view of the route that I walked that day and the people I met and photographed, CLICK to visit the 9/12/09 Washington, D.C. Tea Party photo gallery, which contains more than 300 images. Just CLICK on the “Slideshow” link on the gallery’s menu bar, and then sit back and enjoy a view of the Tea Party movement that’s been denied by the mainstream media.

Spread the Word

Please share this website — — with others. It’s my view that fair-minded individuals viewing the photos can acknowledge that the 9/12/09 Washington, D.C. Tea Party brought together a great group of Americans intent on speaking out and making a positive difference in the life of our nation.

About Deb Phillips
Deb Phillips is a freelance photographer and writer based in Lewisville, NC (USA). In addition to reviewing Deb's documentary coverage here at, check out her inspirational photo blog at and her personal photo portfolio at Deb Phillips Photography, where Art & Life Converge.


13 Responses to “America Goes to Washington”
  1. Jone Reid says:


    I couldn’t attend this, only because I had a previous commitment out of state. I would have been in DC with you so that I could show my concern and dissatisfaction with the course that our elected officials are taking our country. Thanks for going, photographing and reporting true journalism!

    I’m forwarding your website to others so that the truth about the 9/12 gathering is told.


  2. Deana Gasperson says:

    Hey Deb,
    A job well done in sharing about the 9/12 gathering in DC! I couldn’t attend but thankful for the many that went to show their concern for health care, voice their opinion and stand against wasteful spending programs. May our elected officials have ears to hear what the American people are saying! We are not the silent minority. Thank you for being a voice and reporting the truth!


  3. Deb Phillips says:

    Jone and Deana, thank you for writing. I must be forthright in sharing that what I’ve presented here would not be considered “pure” journalism. That’s because I’ve clearly expressed my bias. That doesn’t mean that what I’ve said is untrue, though. It just means that by establishment standards, I can’t rightfully call my work “objective” journalism. It’s closer to commentary. I’m fine with that, just as long as I can indeed express my views, as others do in our great nation.

    Maybe you can join me next time!

  4. Polly Spainhour says:

    Deb, thanks for sharing your photos from our March on Washington. I still can’t believe that I actually was part of this maginificent representation of Americans. Everyone I met was congenial, and their goal was to be heard by our representatives in Washington. Of course, Obama (I’m sorry, but he doesn’t deserve the title of President) flew out of town as we were coming in. I have never marched for anything in my life, but I feel our freedom as Americans is being taken away. Our forefathers fought and gave their lives for this freedom. If we wanted no freedom, then we’d move to another country.

  5. Deb Phillips says:

    Polly, I’m with you! It was wonderful to participate in such a historic event.

  6. Barbara Ashton Kepler says:

    Hi Deb ~

    Jone forwarded this to me and I’m so glad she did. I want to thank you for publishing the TRUTH about 9/12. I am forwarding this on to friends and family. God bless you and God bless America!


  7. Deb Phillips says:

    Hi, Barb. I’m a little squeamish on being credited with publishing the “TRUTH” about the 9/12 DC Tea Party, but I can certainly say I’m giving my viewpoint, based on what I personally saw and experienced. I admit I have a bias in favor of the Tea Party movement and much of the sentiments expressed at Town Hall events over the past few months. Yet I have done my best in my commentary not to introduce inaccuracies or unfounded assumptions.

    Thanks so much for writing, Barb, and for letting others know about

  8. OUTSTANDING! Thanks for your visit!

    I covered TWO shows on BTR for this event and MAN O MAN was it GREAT! TWO MILLION or more people showed up in DC and over SIX million at other parties on that day!


  9. Deb Phillips says:

    Mark, you’re STILL hyped! And so you should be! The turnout and the spirit of the DC Tea Party were fantastic — and hopefully only the beginning. Stay “Fired Up!”

  10. VJ Bednarz says:

    These really are some outstanding pictures. Thanks for posting them. I will learn from them as I continue with my new-found interest in photography! I was one of the many North Carolinians there as well. I never participated in a march before and to be honest, I was supposed to go “see the world” this year (I turn the big 4-0 this year so a major birthday should be celebrated). I chose this event instead. What an honor it was to be part of history and I could not think of a better gift than to see so many in this country fight for liberty!

  11. Deb Phillips says:

    Hi, VJ. I knew I’d regret not going to the march if I didn’t go. Several times that day, I remember feeling part of something very inspiring as I looked over that huge crowd and then personally spoke with a number of folks from various parts of the country.

    The people I saw and met were just regular folks — not extremists, racists, etc. I don’t necessarily think we’re more patriotic than those with whom we disagree. But it’s important that our voices be heard and our views be counted.

    Thank you so much for stopping by, VJ. I wish you a great 40th year! And I agree, you chose a great event to mark your big 4-0.

  12. M White says:


    The pictures are just fantastic!!! I shared the link to the website with other patriots.
    Going to Washington D.C. was an event of a lifetime. I cannot be more proud that I was part of it!

  13. Deb Phillips says:

    Greetings, M! Good to hear from you. Glad you enjoyed the photos, and thanks for passing along the website link to others.

    Perhaps we’ll meet again at another event. I don’t think this will be my last!

    It was really good sharing the ride with you.

    All the best,

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