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Arguing the size of the "tea party" protest

In any case, experts see it as democracy in action, and that's a good thing.

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How big was the Tea Party?

By some estimates, over half a million Americans took to the streets last Wednesday to protest taxes and Washington spending – the largest single-day turnout of protesters in the US since 750,000 people marched in Los Angeles in support of rights and protections for immigrants on March 25, 2006. [Editor's note: ]

Pitched as a non-partisan protest, but dominated by conservatives and libertarians, the national Tea Party protests took place in over 800 locales – from mega-city Atlanta to little Craig, Colo. – with people waving mostly homemade signs, chanting "USA! USA!" and recalling the spirit of the country's revolutionary roots to demand smaller, more responsible and more constitutional government.

Critics doubt the higher estimates of the turnout, and say the numbers represent the extreme right rather than a burgeoning political counterpoint to President Obama and current Washington policies.

Yet the idea of non-traditional protesters using bottom-up organizing to foment a national movement in the span of 60 days may have marked a turning point for the tea partiers – especially since the high attendance estimates rivaled the estimated 500,000 or so protesters who converged on New York City and several other major cities to oppose the Iraq War on Feb. 15, 2003.

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