Palin Tea Party Express Come to Boston
BOSTON/Boston Common – Nearly 5,000 people descended on the Boston Common last Wednesday morning to attend the last scheduled rally on the third Tea Party Express national tour. The special guest was former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who spoke to the crowd in the late morning.
Photos by Diana Mai. Copyright 2010 Diana Mai.
According to Tea Party Express communications director Levi Russell, this stop marks the first time the tour has come to Boston.
“It obviously has a lot of historical significance because it’s the site of the original Boston Tea Party,” Russell said. “But secondly our group got behind Scott Brown real strongly and supported him. So we wanted to be here and do a ‘hurrah’ that he got elected.”
Pointing to one of the three large tour buses parked behind the speakers’ stage, Russell outlined the reasons the Tea Party Express has gone on the road.
“The point of the tour overall is essentially supporting the five issues that are on the bus right here,” Russell said. “Which are in general, all different facets of wanting the government to be responsible, to return to a more, I guess, fiscal sanity where we don’t spend money that we don’t have.”
Russell also spoke about the tour’s goals for its final destination on Tax Day.
“What we’re going to be doing in DC is announcing a target list essentially of some of the politicians that we feel are the worst offenders who are the opposite of all these things as well as those that we think are good, true conservatives that we want to support. The goal is not to have Tea Parties forever but to put people in office that better represent conservatives.”
The Greater Boston Tea Party had a welcoming tent at the rally.
Bill Person, volunteer and contributor to the local Tea Party’s blog, spoke about his future hopes for electing people that share the group’s values.
“I’m gearing up for some special elections that are coming up in May, not just in Massachusetts,” Person said. “There’s one in Hawaii. That’s Obama’s home state, so that’s important to the Democrats.”
The rally began at 10 a.m. and lasted well into the afternoon. Throughout the day, the yellow Gadsden flag – with a coiled rattlesnake and the “Don’t Tread on Me” legend – remained a prominent symbol among the Tea Party supporters.
A sizable counter demonstration began at the outskirts of the gathering and gradually made its way into the crowd, interacting with those coming out for the rally. The Afghanistan Task Force of the local United for Justice with Peace group led an effort, holding many “Stop the Afghanistan War” signs and a large banner. Member Cole Harrison explained his group’s reasons for demonstrating.
“We’re out here to dialogue with people,” Harrison said. “You know, a lot of the crowd is actually progressive, it’s not all Tea Partiers. Also, some of the Tea Partiers are anti-war so we’re here to tell the Tea Partiers, if they’re concerned about their taxes, they should look at the size of the military budget. We’re spending $700 billion a year on the military and that is more than the next 15 countries put together. We’re trying to put this anti-tax concern into an anti-military concern.”
Protesters from the Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition and the Bail Out the People Movement joined United for Justice with Peace members. Signs included “You’re Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay, Tea Party Bigots Go Away!” and a large banner reading “Fund Human Needs.” Several Veterans for Peace activists waved their signature large white flag with an image of a dove.
Another visible group, Standing on the Side of Love, held a large yellow banner, waved signs and wore shirts to demonstrate against what they see as elements of oppression within the Tea Party ranks. Sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association, the campaign attracted over sixty people to its protest.
Susan Leslie, UU Director of Congregational Advocacy and Witness and one of the campaign’s main organizers, spoke about the reasons Standing on the Side of Love came out to the rally.
“It’s a time of rising hope and fear,” Leslie said. “In times of fear, it’s people on the margins that are victimized. It’s great to have public discourse. There’s room for the Tea Party. But there’s no room for racism, homophobia, name-calling. We’re saying ‘let’s stand on the side of love.”
Throughout the rally, debates between Tea Party supporters and counter demonstrators ranged from civil conversations to full-on confrontations. The separate groups generally remained on either side of the Common.
Before going on stage to speak to the crowd, Selena Owens, political activist and writer of three books on conservatism, spoke about her particular role in the Tea Party.
“My particular interest is conservative women and I always point them back to the Bible which I believe is the foundation,” Owens said. “I’m not a politician. I’m a conservative Christian and I encourage women.”
Owens went on to explain her view of the Tea Party’s goals.
“We know that our government is crossing boundaries, government intrusion into our lives in areas that we don’t want them in. Our hope is to continue to rouse the American public and if they weren’t interested in what we were doing, we wouldn’t have the crowds we have. Even without Palin, often we have hundreds, thousands of people turn out.”
During her speech, Palin referred to the current political climate as “stealing opportunity in this land of opportunity.” Several other speakers before and after the former Senator included Tea Party Express Chairman Mark Williams, local Rush Radio 1200’s Jeff Katz and Saturday Night Live’s Victoria Jackson, among others. Williams described his group as “a constitutional movement, not a political party.”