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Hundreds in Grand Forks join 'tea party'

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - A crowd estimated at 700 to 900 people filled the front lawn of the Grand Forks County Courthouse for a "tea party" on Tuesday, giving voice to many expressing dissatisfaction with the political status quo.

Terry Bjerke, Grand Forks City Council member, was one of several guest speakers and took his shots at critics of tea parties and at President Barack Obama.

Bjerke said didn't see many "Nazis" or "un-American" types in the crowd. "What I see is a lot of community organizers. And we are going to follow the example of our president and organize our community. ... We need to take our country back."

Later, he said he meant "take it back from socialistic" programs and politicians.

About two dozen people who lined up for the microphone were given about a minute to speak their piece.

David Waterman, a Grand Forks business owner, said it was the job of the Christian church, not government, to care for the sick, the poor and those in need.

Another counseled everyone to listen to one another, harking back to ancient Greece's example of democracy.

Former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer, who was President Bush's secretary of agriculture for a year, was the main speaker, closing out the 105-minute event with a six-minute address. Schafer said while it was clear there were Republicans, Democrats, independents, "and even Rastafarians" in the crowd, that was not what it was all about.

"We are all here because we are people who care about our country and we want our voices to be heard," he said.

Eliot Glasheim, a Democratic legislator and member of the Grand Forks City Council, was perhaps the only liberal office holder in the crowd.

Glasheim said after the event he's never seen this sort of political movement of discontent, at least since the 1960s. He said he wished he had spoken up.

Glasheim said he isn't exactly sure where the discontent is coming from, or what it is seeking.

"I don't understand what is behind (what they say), what is bothering them," he said. "They criticize Medicare. But are there any of them who would really want their parents not to have Medicare?"

A similar tea party is scheduled for Thursday evening in downtown Fargo near the public library.