Tax Day Tea Party, Thousand Oaks, Ca - April 15th, 2010
On Tax Day, April 15th, I attended one of the hundreds of "Tea Parties" being held across the country. Instead of going to a Tea Party near my home, I decided to attend one outside of Los Angeles. I selected the quiet suburb of Thousand Oaks, just north of the Ventura County line… I chose Thousand Oaks in part because I know the area well, but more so because Thousand Oaks made national news last year when an anti-Obamacare protester and a pro-Obamacare protester got into a scuffle at a roadside demonstration that ended with the Obama supporter biting off the finger of the anti-Obama protester. I thought that this ugly event, occurring in such an inconspicuous middle-class suburb, vividly illustrated the deep divide that has gripped the country over the past 16 months. I also thought there was a pretty good chance that there would be counter-protesters demonstrating against the Tea Party, not to mention the possibility of "Tea Party Crashers"… And so I hopped on the 101 freeway and headed north, arriving at the Thousand Oaks Post Office shortly before noon.
Standing on the park-like grass lawn out front of the Post Office I saw a woman dressed in colonial garb waving a Gadsden Flag, and a few other folks with handmade signs along the sidewalk.
I parked my car around the block and walked over.
One by one people began to arrive waving flags and holding their homemade placards. A large percentage of the crowd appeared to be senior citizens.
Soon there were hundreds of people lined up along Thousand Oaks Blvd, and a couple hundred more gathered on the grass in the shade of the trees.
I was looking for anyone who might be a Tea Party "crasher", and I soon noticed this guy…
It was a member of the Lyndon LaRouche cult holding the now infamous Obama / Hitler sign. LaRouche supporters show up at virtually all political demonstrations, left or right, holding offensive signs intended to provoke people. He was soon noticed by some real Tea Partiers, one of whom held a sign next to the LaRouchie that said, "Not Tea".
Then I saw something that I did not think was possible. A few Tea Partiers surrounded the LaRouchie and spoke with him calmly, but forcefully, basically telling him to roll up his sign or get lost. After about 15 minutes of persuasive conversation the LaRouche supporter rolled up his sign and walked away. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
Three cheers for the guy in the American flag hard-hat, he successfully achieved what I had previously deemed impossible; he convinced a Lyndon LaRouche cultist to leave a protest.
So off I went, photographing people and their signs, with an eye open for "crashers" or anyone behaving badly. What I saw was a lot of senior citizens worried about leaving their grandchildren saddled with massive debt, soccer moms and their kids protesting against government incompetence and waste, and small business owners angry about high taxes, over regulation and politicians who are deaf to their concerns. Although the mood was friendly, the overriding message was, "Throw the bums out!"
The people at this demonstration were not the type of people who would, under normal circumstances, be seen marching down a sidewalk with protest signs in their hands. These were grandmothers and members of the local Elks Lodge. Any politician who does not take these people seriously, does so at his own peril.
Still looking out for "crashers", or any other inappropriate conduct, I noticed that someone had set a life-size cut-out of Barack Obama along the side of Thousand Oaks Blvd. When I stepped out into the street to take a photograph I noticed that the fellow standing beside the cardboard Obama looked a bit different than the other Tea Partiers. He wore a dirty old Army Surplus jacket, black boots and had something hanging over his shoulder.
At first I didn’t realize what I had seen, so a few minutes later I went back to have another look.
Yep, he had a rifle slung over his shoulder. Was it real?… I can’t say for sure. It almost looked like a prop. No one else seemed to even notice him. He stood there with another fellow holding a sign that read, "More Govt, Less Freedom". He smiled when I took his picture, but there was something wrong about him. I know Thousand Oaks well, and it’s not the kind of place one would expect to see a greasy, black-booted twenty five year old survivalist-type standing on the sidewalk with a rifle on his back. Was this guy a crasher? He stood there waving at the passing traffic. Nobody seemed to notice his rifle. Grandmothers and little children walked past waving flags without giving him a second glance. Twenty minutes later he was gone.
If anyone reading this has information about the person with the rifle in the above pictures, please contact me, I would love to know more about him.
I would also love to hear from anyone who knows what type of rifle he's carrying (it almost looks like a movie prop to me), or if he is in compliance with California’s "Open Carry" laws. From what I understand, it is illegal to carry an unloaded firearm within 1000 feet of an airport, school or post office. This Tea Party took place on U.S. Post Office property.
Please contact me via the contact link at the top of this page.
A man stepped up on the small stage, said a short prayer for our country and then everyone recited the Pledge of Allegiance. After that, two pretty young women sang the Star Spangled Banner, and everyone joined in.
I wandered around among the people. I can’t tell you exactly how many were on hand, but there were certainly many hundreds.
Not everyone was a senior citizen or a "soccer mom".
There were also quite a few veterans on hand.
Here’s a short video I made walking through the Tea Party. You can hear the passing cars endlessly honking their support.
This was not a gathering of angry leftists, college students and old hippies. It was more like a mass gathering of frustrated, pissed off shoppers from the local mall. These folks are serious and only a fool would dismiss them or take their anger lightly. These people are the bread and butter of America, and they are sick and fed up.
I never saw any counter protesters, but as I was leaving I did see a new cultural phenomenon…