The Tea Party Express Visits Los Angeles, CA on Oct. 25, 2009
Appearing on television recently, comedian Janeane Garofalo, had this to say about the "Tea Party" demonstrations:
"Let’s be very honest about what this is about. It’s not about bashing Democrats, it’s not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston tea party was about, they don’t know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up".
She went on to call the people who attend such protests, "a bunch of teabagging rednecks".
Former President Jimmy Carter has also added to the accusations of racism by saying:
"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American".
On Oct 25th The Tea Party Express made the second stop in it’s cross-country tour of the United States, at Griffith Park, in Los Angeles.
So I went down to have a look for myself.
When I arrived, there were already quite a few people gathered in the section of the park behind the baseball field.
And so I ventured into the crowd of "teabagging rednecks", with my camera in hand, ready to document hatred and racism. What I found instead was a lot of smiling senior citizens, military veterans and families picnicking in the shade of the trees.
I immediately noticed a few things that made this Tea Party different from the many anti-war demonstrations which I’ve attended over the past years. For one thing, there were no people yelling into bullhorns or chanting mindless slogans. And nobody wore dirty bandanas tied around their faces. There were no booths selling books on Marx or Mao. And there were no red flags flapping in the breeze. No Che Guevara shirts. No drum circles…And best of all, unlike virtually every Left-wing demonstration, there were no pre-made signs. None!
I wandered around taking pictures of the people and their homemade signs, still looking for something that could be construed as racist.
Then I noticed, far at the back of the Tea Party and separated by yellow tape, a group of perhaps 50 counter-demonstrators had gathered.
They were chanting, "Yes We Can! Yes We Can!"
Many of them were holding the same sign printed with the word "Fearless" and the name of an organization that I had not heard of before: The Courage Campaign
There were some handmade signs too, most of which demanded "Health Care For All".
In this video you can hear the anti-Tea Party demonstrators singing a catchy new rendition of "Joy To The World", called "Health To The World".
Eventually some of the Tea Party people noticed the counter protesters and came over to have a look.
Before long both sides were chanting "USA! USA! USA!"….as you can see in the following video. I can’t think of a more perfect example of the current state of political discourse in the U.S.
The counter protesters did their best to taunt the tea partiers, calling them fascists and racists, and shouting out questions like, "Where are your white hoods?" A few tea partiers yelled stupid things back at them, but after about 10 minutes the tea party people got bored and most of them walked back to their lawn chairs on the other side of the grass.
The Tea Party Express bus was expected to arrive soon and so while everyone was waiting I walked around the park, still looking for anything racist.
When the bus finally arrived people cheered and gathered around the small stage. Unlike Left-wing demonstrations, the speeches were spoken, not shouted, and there was no chanting of slogans….Well, to be honest, the crowd did briefly chant "Dump Barbara Boxer!" just before California Senatorial candidate, Chuck DeVore spoke.
The only time that the subject of race came up was when the speaker pictured below (I didn’t catch his name) told the crowd not to be "intimidated by these race hustlers" who will falsely accuse the tea parties of racism.
And so I took one last walk through the crowd, keeping an eye out for anything that might be seen as racist…
There were political buttons and t-shirts for sale. Variations of the "Don’t Tread On Me" theme were the most popular.
I didn’t particularly like seeing this little girl selling pirate flags with the President’s face on them….
CNN’s Gary Tuchman noticed her too, and interviewed her mother.
Many of the tea partiers also wore t-shirts with messages on them…
This one seemed to capture the sentiment of many of the demonstrators.
In the end, I never did find a single sign or banner with a racist message, nor did I hear a racist word spoken… but then, for many of Barack Obama’s most ardent supporters, the very act of criticizing the President is seen as racist. So it really doesn’t matter what the tea partiers say, they will be dismissed as "teabagging rednecks" by the talking heads on the networks, MSNBC and CNN. And when someone finally does bring a sign with a racist, or racially insensitive, message to one of these events you can rest assured that that will be the image that will make the evening news. In fact, the very lack of coverage that this Tea Party received in the local news can be seen as proof that nothing racist or offensive occurred.
Personally, I found the Tea Partiers at this rally to be a genuinely friendly bunch, who were refreshingly unsophisticated in the art of protest, yet sincerely concerned about expansion of government and the erosion of individual liberty under the current administration.
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