Charleston tourists exploring the Market got a little more than they bargained (or bartered) for on Wednesday afternoon when more than 2,000 people crowded around the Custom House downtown. The massive crowd led officers to eventually close off the surrounding streets as the crowd overflowed from the sidewalks with signs like “Don’t Tax Me Bro.”

The event was one of thousands across the country on Tax Day, April 15. They were first imagined as grassroots events to voice frustration over wasteful federal spending. Some stayed true to the cause, shirking requests from elected officials to speak. Other events became campaign stumps for politicians and fodder for talk show hosts on the left and the right.

In Charleston, two of South Carolina’s high-profile opponents to the Obama administration were the opening act. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told the crowd that America isn’t getting a return on its investment in November.

“The only change coming to Washington is the change from your wallet,” he said.

One sign at the rally read, “Vote Them Out.” DeMint told the crowd, “We’re going to take back our country,” presumably from the progressive Americans who took back the White House just five months ago.

Gov. Mark Sanford, also a Republican, followed DeMint. Sanford has taken a political hit for his opposition to $700 million in federal aid to South Carolina. He argues paying back the money over decades will hurt the state’s taxpayers. Sanford’s opponents say that South Carolina will be paying back that money whether it’s spent here or somewhere else.

Sanford’s message of government reform sounded like talking points for his presumed presidential run in 2012: “Not a penny more.”

Once the elected officials got the crowd fired up, it was time for taxpayers to get on the soapbox. Some strayed from message, calling on the crowd to run the communists out of Washington. But most kept to offering some variation on the motto, “Don’t Tread On Me.”

While the main message was taxes, it was clear that the crowd was a broad collection of individual interests that happened to coincide with the organizers. A few signs in the crowd read “Term Limits Now!” and “Abortion: Not With My Tax Dollars” and “More Aliens = More Taxes.”

For More:

• Jack Hunter’s Tea Party Report

• Chris Haire weighs in at Haire of the Dog