Tea Party protests


Tea Party protests
Tea Party protests
Part of response to excessive government social and fiscal policies
Date 2009 to Present
Location United States
Status Ongoing
Goals Government adherence to the Constitution, opposition to excessive taxation
Characteristics
Arrests/Injuries/Deaths
Arrests: 0 Injuries: 0 Deaths: 0
A Tea Party protest in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 15, 2009.
Tea Party protesters fill the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall on September 12, 2009.

The Tea Party protests are a series of protests across the United States that began in early 2009. The protests are part of a larger political movement called the Tea Party.

Among other events, protests have been held on:

Most Tea Party activities since 2010 have been focused on opposing the efforts (supported by the Obama Administration) to enact reforms to health insurance and health care delivery, and on recruiting, nominating, and supporting candidates for upcoming state and national elections. [9][10] The name "Tea Party" is a reference to the Boston Tea Party, whose principal aim was to protest taxation without representation.[11][12] Tea Party protests have sought to evoke images, slogans and themes from the American Revolution, such as tri-corner hats and yellow Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me" flags.[4][13] The letters T-E-A have been used by some protesters to form the backronym "Taxed Enough Already".[14]

Commentators promoted Tax Day events on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, while the Fox News Channel regularly featured televised programming leading into and promoting various protest activities.[15] Reaction to the tea parties included counter-protests expressing support for the Obama administration, and dismissive or mocking media coverage of both the events and its promoters.[15][16]

Contents

History

Background

A Tea Party protester holds a sign saying "Remember: Dissent is Patriotic" at a Nashville Tea Party on February 27, 2009.

The theme of the Boston Tea Party, an iconic event of American history, has long been used by anti-tax protesters with libertarian and conservative viewpoints.[17][18][19][20][21] It was part of Tax Day protests held throughout the 1990s and earlier.[22][23][24] The libertarian theme of the "tea party" protest has also been used by Republican Congressman Ron Paul and his supporters during fundraising events in the primaries of the 2008 presidential campaign to emphasize Paul's fiscal conservatism, which they later claimed laid the groundwork for the modern-day Tea Party movement, although many of them also claim their movement has been hijacked by neoconservatives.[25][26][27][28][29] Trevor Leach, the New York Chairman of Young Americans for Liberty, a student organization that branched off of Students for Paul and Campaign for Liberty with the endorsement of Congressman Ron Paul, organized a protest on January 24, 2009 with participants dressing in Native American costumes and dumping soft drinks into Binghamton, New York's Susquehanna River in protest of former NY Governor David Paterson's proposed 18% tax increase on soda.[30][31] As home mortgage foreclosures increased, and details of the 2009 stimulus bill became known, organized protests began to emerge.[32][33][34] The character of the Tea Parties has since diverged significantly from Paul's anti-war and libertarian focus, and Paul has stated that "neocons" who do not accept his policies have become more prevalent in the protests.[35]

February 1, 2009 tea bag campaign

On January 19, 2009, Graham Makohoniuk, a part-time trader and a member of Ticker Forum, posted a casual invitation on the market-ticker.org forums to "Mail a tea bag to congress and to senate,"[36] a tactic that had first been attempted by the Libertarian Party in 1973.[37] The idea quickly caught on with others on the forum, some of whom reported being attracted to the inexpensive, easy way to reach "everyone that voted for the bailout."[38]

Forum moderator Stephanie Jasky helped organize the group and worked to "get it to go viral."[39] Jasky is also the founder and director of FedUpUSA - a fiscally conservative, non-partisan activist group whose members describe themselves as "a group of investors" who sprung out of the market-ticker.org forums.[40] The group had previously held DC protests in 2008.[41][42] On January 19, 2009, Jasky had posted a formal invitation "to a commemorative tea party."[43] She suggested supporters send tea bags on the same day (February 1, 2009) in a coordinated effort.[39]

The founder of market-ticker.org, Karl Denninger (stock trader and former CEO),[44] published his own write-up on the proposed protest, titled "Tea Party February 1st?," which was posted in direct response to President Obama's inauguration occurring on the same day, and railed against the bailouts, the US national debt and "the fraud and abuse in our banking and financial system" which included the predatory lending practices currently at the center of the home mortgage foreclosure crisis.[45] Karl Denninger, who helped form FedUpUSA in the wake of the March 2008 Federal Reserve bail out of Bear Sterns, had been a guest on both Glenn Beck and CNBC Reports.[46][47] By February 1, the idea had spread among conservative and libertarian-oriented blogs, forums, websites and through a viral email campaign,[48] and Denninger has since been credited as one of the founders of the movement, and the organizer for the first Tea Party event.[49][50]

On February 11, talk radio host and Fox Business Network personality Dave Ramsey appeared on Fox and Friends, waving tea bags and saying "It's time for a Tea Party."[34] He was on the show criticizing the newly confirmed Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, who that morning had outlined his plan to use the $300 billion or so dollars remaining in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds. He intended to use $50 billion for foreclosure mitigation and use the rest to help fund private investors to buy toxic assets from banks.[51]

"Porkulus" protests and "First Tea Party" claims

The dominant theme seen at some of the earliest anti-stimulus protests was "pork" rather than tea.[52] The term "porkulus" was coined by radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh on his January 27, 2009 broadcast,[53] in reference to both the 2009 "stimulus" bill, which had been introduced to the House of Representatives the day before, as well as to pork barrel spending and earmarks.[54] The term proved very popular with conservative politicians and commentators,[55] who began to unify in opposition against stimulus spending after the 2008 General Election.

Competing claims have emerged over which protest was actually the first to organize. According to FreedomWorks state and federal campaigns director Brendan Steinhauser,[56][57] activist Mary Rakovich[58] was the organizer of a February 10, 2009 protest in Fort Myers, Florida, calling it the "first protest of President Obama's administration that we know of. It was the first protest of what became the tea party movement."[59] Rakovich, along with six to 10 others, protested outside a townhall meeting featuring President Barack Obama and Florida governor Charlie Crist.[60] Interviewed by a local reporter, Rakovich explained that she "thinks the government is wasting way too much money helping people receive high definition TV signals" and that "Obama promotes socialism, although 'he doesn't call it that'".[60] She was invited to appear in front of a national audience on Neil Cavuto's Fox News Channel program Your World.[61] Regarding the role Freedomworks played in the demonstration, Rakovich acknowledged they were involved "right from the start,"[62] and said that in her 212 hour training session, she was taught how to attract more supporters and was specifically advised not to focus on President Obama.[63]

However, though it was not the first protest of the Obama administration or of the stimulus, New York Times reporter Kate Zernike,[64] reports that some within the Tea Party credit Seattle blogger and conservative activist Keli Carender with organizing the first Tea Party on February 16, 2009. Another article, written by Chris Good of The Atlantic, credits Carender as "one of the first" Tea Party organizers.

Carendar organized what she called A "Porkulus Protest" on President’s Day, before, as she says, "Rick Santelli’s rant" referring to the CNBC reporter who called for protests after the announcement of the AIG executive bonuses in the face of increasing home mortgage foreclosures.[65][66]

Carender contacted conservative author and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin in order to gain Malkin's support and publicize her event. Malkin promoted the protest in several posts on her blog, saying that "There should be one of these in every town in America," and that she would be supplying the crowd with a meal of pulled pork. The protest was held in Seattle on Presidents Day, February 16, the day before President Obama signed the stimulus bill into law.[67] Malkin encouraged her readers to stage similar events in Denver on February 17 where President Obama planned to sign the stimulus bill into law.

A protest at the Denver Capitol Building was already in the works at that time. Malkin reported that it was organized by the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity and spearheaded by the conservative activist group Independence Institute as well as former Republican Representative and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo.[68][69][70] Another protest organized by local conservative talk radio station KFYI was held in suburban Phoenix, Arizona, on February 18, and brought 500 protesters.[71] KFYI organized the protest in reaction to Obama's visit to the local high school to hold his first public talk on elements of the stimulus bill.[72] By February 20, Malkin was using her nationally-syndicated column to attempt to present these three protests as a movement to her fellow conservatives, and continued to call for more.[73] "There's something in the air," she wrote, "It's the smell of roasted pork."

Birth of national Tea Party movement

On February 19, 2009,[55] in a broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, CNBC Business News Network editor Rick Santelli loudly criticized the government plan to refinance mortgages, which had just been announced the day before, as "promoting bad behavior" by "subsidizing losers' mortgages" and raised the possibility of putting together a "Chicago Tea Party in July".[74][75] A number of the traders and brokers around him cheered on his proposal, to the apparent amusement of the hosts in the studio. It was called "the rant heard round the world".[76] According to The New Yorker writer Ben McGrath[77] and New York Times reporter Kate Zernike,[78] this is where the movement was first inspired to coalesce under the collective banner of "Tea Party". By the next day, guests on Fox News had already begun to mention this new "Tea Party".[79]

The day following Santelli's comments from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, on February 20, 2009, roughly 50 national conservative leaders participated in a conference call that gave birth to the national Tea Party movement.[80]

In response to Santelli, websites such as ChicagoTeaParty.com, registered in August 2008 by Chicago radio producer Zack Christenson, were live within twelve hours.[81] About 10 hours after Santelli's remarks, reTeaParty.com was bought to coordinate Tea Parties scheduled for July 4, and as of March 4, was reported to be receiving 11,000 visitors a day.[81]

Also on February 19, Young Americans for Liberty NY State Chairman Trevor Leach created a Facebook page called "The Capitalist Chicago Tea Party—Rick's Revolution," in response to Santelli's call for a national Tea Party.[82][83] According to The Huffington Post, a Facebook page was developed on February 20 calling for Tea Party protests across the country.[48] Eric Odom of the conservative activist group FreedomWorks was one of the group administrators, and the group was created by Phil Kerpen from the conservative advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity—the same group credited for the Denver "porkulus" protest as well as Mary Rakovich's early February 10 protest. Soon, the "Nationwide Chicago Tea Party" protest was coordinated across over 40 different cities for February 27, 2009, thus establishing the first national modern Tea Party protest.[84][85]

Protests

April 15, 2009 tax day events

Tea Party protesters in Louisville, Kentucky on April 15, 2009.

April 15, 2009, was the date of the largest number of tea parties, with demonstrations reported to be occurring in more than 750 cities.[86] Estimates of numbers of protesters varied by location and source. The Christian Science Monitor reported on the difficulties of calculating a cumulative turnout and said some estimates state that over half a million Americans participated in the protests, noting, "experts say the counting itself often becomes politicized as authorities, organizers, and attendees often come up with dramatically different counts."[87][87][88] Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, estimated that at least 268,000 attended in over 200 cities.[89] Statistician Nate Silver, manager of FiveThirtyEight.com, has stated that the largest protests were in capitals and large cities while many others had little or no reliable media coverage and were thus not included in his estimate. He reported a cumulative crowd size estimate from credible sources of 311,460 for 346 cities and on April 16, 2009 stated "essentially all major cities and state capitals should now be accounted for."[90] The largest event, in Atlanta, Georgia, drew an estimated 7,000[91] to 15,000 people.[90][92] Some of the gatherings drew only dozens.[87]

An April 15, 2009, Tea Party protest outside the White House was moved after a box of tea bags was hurled over the White House fence. Police sealed off the area and evacuated some people. The Secret Service brought out a bomb-detecting robot, which determined the package was not a threat.[93] Approximately a thousand people had demonstrated, several waved placards saying "Stop Big Government" and "Taxation is Piracy".[3]

According to an April 20, 2009, Rasmussen poll, 51% of Americans polled viewed the protests favorably and 32% of these viewed them "very favorably". About one in four people polled knew someone who had attended a Tea Party protest.[94] Those results, however, stand in contrast to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey in March which found that 62% said that they approved how Obama was handling tax policy.[88] An April USA Today/Gallup poll also found that a majority of Americans favored the expansion of government economic intervention, "at least for now".[3]

April 15 – July 4, 2009 Tea Parties

After April 15, 2009, Tea Party rallies continued in various locales around the nation. Many of these events were focused on opposition to state or local taxes and spending, rather than with national issues. Late April saw Tea Parties in Annapolis, Maryland, White Plains, New York,[95] Jackson, Tennessee,[96] and Monroe, Washington.[97] In May, there were six more Tea Party events in Tennessee[98], New York,[99] Idaho,[100] Ohio,[101] Nevada,[102] and North Carolina.[103] During June, 2009 another dozen events were held in North Carolina,[104] California,[105] Rhode Island,[106] Texas,[107] Ohio,[108] Michigan,[109] Montana,[110] Florida,[111] New York,[112] and Washington[113] state. On June 29, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee, four thousand people rallied against new emissions trading (cap and trade) energy and universal health care legislation in Congress.[114]

Independence Day Tea Party protests

A number of Tea Party protests were held the weekend of July 4, 2009, coinciding with American Independence Day.[115][116] "The rally followed a national effort that drew thousands of activists to Tea Party events across the country on April 15, 2009 when income taxes are due".[117]

On July 17, 2009, there were additional Tea Party protests around the nation organized by a group called Tea Party Patriots, this time against President Obama's proposed health care reform bill that they labeled socialized medicine.[118]

Taxpayer March on Washington

Protesters walking towards the United States Capitol during the Taxpayer March on Washington, September 12, 2009.

On September 12, 2009, Tea Party protests were held in various cities around the nation. In Washington, D.C., Tea Party protests gathered to march from Freedom Plaza to the United States Capitol. Estimates of the number of attendees varied, from "tens of thousands"[6] to "in excess of 75,000".[119][120] A rally organizer asserted that one local ABC News station had reported attendance of over one million, but he retracted the statement after ABC News denied making any such report.[121]

Using the most generous counts of those in attendance, the march may have been the largest conservative protest ever held in Washington, D.C., as well as the largest demonstration against President Obama's administration to date.[122][123]

First Tea Party convention

On February 4, 2010, the first Tea Party national convention was held in Nashville, attended by 600 people.[124] The convention received broad media coverage as former GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin was the featured speaker. Some tea partiers condemned the event, questioning the main sponsor, Tea Party Nation, a for-profit group, as well as the several hundred dollar ticket price. The former Alaska governor was criticized[125][126] for receiving as much as $100,000 to address the convention.[127]

Tactics

The New York Times reported on August 8, 2009 that organizations opposed to the health insurance reform legislation were urging opponents to be disruptive. It noted that the Tea Party Patriots web site circulated a memo instructing them to "Pack the hall. Yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early. Get him off his prepared script and agenda. Stand up and shout and sit right back down."[128] The memo continued, "The Rep [representative] should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington."[129]

Some Tea party organizers have stated that they look to leftist radical Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals for inspiration. Protesters have also appropriated left-wing imagery; the logo for the 9/12 March on Washington featured a raised fist design that was intended to resemble those used by pro-labor, anti-war, and black power movements of the 1960s. In addition, the slogan "Keep Your Laws Off My Body", usually associated with pro-choice activists, has been seen on signs at tea parties.[130]

On April 8, 2010, it was announced that the National Tea Party Federation had been set up to publicize the movement, and in particular to respond to criticism, such as allegations of racist behavior by protesters.[131] On April 26, 2010, the organization sent a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus denouncing racism and requesting that the CBC supply any evidence of the alleged events at the protest on March 20, 2010.[132]

Reports of abusive behavior

There have been a number of allegations of racism, gay-bashing, anti-semitism and other abusive behavior by Tea Party protesters.[133][134][135][136][137]

On March 16, 2010, at a Tea Party protest in front of the offices of Representative Mary Jo Kilroy, a counter-protester with Parkinson's disease was berated by Chris Reichert of Victorian Village, Ohio[138] and had dollar bills thrown at him with additional protesters also mocking the individual. Reichert initially denied the incident, but later apologized for his "shameful" actions.[137]

On March 20, 2010, before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Bill was voted on in Washington D.C., it was reported that protesters against the bill used racial and anti-gay slurs. Several African-American lawmakers said that demonstrators shouted "the N-word" at them.[139]

Representative André Carson said that as he walked from the Cannon House Office Building with Representative John Lewis, amid chants of "Kill the bill" he heard the "n-word" coming from several places in the crowd. One man "just rattled it off several times," adding "You know, this reminds me of a different time," referring to the 1960s.[140] Congressman Emanuel Cleaver said he clearly heard the word nigger shouted [141] and he was also spat upon by a protester, although whether the spitting was intentional has been questioned.[142] Conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, who was not present at the protest, has said that the racial slurs and other allegations by Cleaver, Lewis and Carson were fabricated as part of a plan to annihilate the Tea Party movement by all means necessary and that they never actually happened. He offered to donate $10,000 as a charitable donation to the United Negro College Fund if Lewis could provide audio or video footage of the slurs, or pass a lie detector test. The amount was later raised to $100,000 for "hard evidence." [143][144][145][146] In addition, the National Tea Party Federation sent a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) denouncing racism and requesting that the CBC supply any evidence of the alleged events at the protest.[147]

A fourth Democrat, Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, who is white, backed up his colleagues, telling the Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News that he too heard the slurs.[141][140] And Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO who was also present during the protest, corroborated Lewis', Carson's, Cleaver's and Shuler's version of events during a later debate with Breitbart by saying, "I watched them spit at people, I watched them call John Lewis the n-word." [140] Politicians from both parties, black conservative activists, and columnists have argued that allegations of racism do not reflect the movement as a whole.[148][149][150][151]

Gay Congressman Barney Frank, was also present during the rally and was called a "faggot".[141][152]

One of Representative Anthony Weiner’s staffers reported a stream of hostile encounters with tea partiers roaming the halls of Congress. In addition to mockery, protesters left a couple of notes behind. According to the New York Daily News, one letter "asked what Rahm Emanuel did with Weiner in the shower, in a reference to the mess around ex-Rep Eric Massa. It was signed with a swastika, the staffer said. The other note called the congressman "Schlomo Weiner."[136]

See also

Peace sign.svg Social movements portal
  • 9-12 Project
  • List of Tea Party protests, 2009
  • List of Tea Party protests, 2010
  • List of Tea Party politicians

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Further reading

  • Flanders, Laura (2010). At the Tea Party. New York, New York: OR Press. ISBN 978-1-935928-23-2.
  • Lepore, Jill (2010). The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-3696-3.

External links


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