Video: Protesters Clash with Counter-Protesters at DC Tax Day Tea Party
Wednesday's DC Tax Day Tea Party may not have been huge, but it certainly was interesting. For 3 and a half hours, 500 or so people braved the at times heavy rain to express their frustration at a litany of ills. Although the demonstrations are ostensibly about taxes and government spending, the protesters' signs covered a wide range of topics.
While there were a few rousing chants by the crowd, there was far more heckling about the poor audio than anything else. One organizer apologized for having only "a little girl voice," to which a man in the crowd screamed "Then let someone else talk!"
At one point, I made my way closer to the stage to get some video of the speakers. The crowd was pack in tight up there, and as Fox News contributor Tobin Smith was speaking, I found out there were several counter-protesters near me, quietly holding signs. The group was led by Alex Lawson. While they did engage in more vocal demonstrations away from the crowd, all they did up by the stage was hold signs. Here's what happened:
Unfortunately, I couldn't stick with Alex's group any longer because I had to get to the White House briefing, but I caught up with Alex later, and he talked about what happened:
My initial reaction to Alex and his crew, whom I saw awhile before the fracas walking through the crowd, was an eye-rolling annoyance at the seeming smugness of it all. At first, I thought they were with the Tea Party. I had seen a similar act at CPAC this year, only they were throwing around "Obama Bucks" with a picture of a cigarette-smoking President on the face.
I even got a little bit aggravated when I tried to interview them afterward, and they wouldn't break character. One of them replied to me, "Character? What do you mean, character?" It was amusing to see talk-show host Greg Knapp,one of the event's speakers, trying to debate them on the square while their characters voiced vociferous agreement.
However, speaking to Alex later, it made sense to me that maintaining their roles was crucial to dealing with a hostile crowd. Here's some video that they shot of their act:
The event organizers were uniformly professional, and did their best to manage a bad situation. They had originally been given permission to set up on the sidewalk across from the White House, but were forced to move into the park by the Secret Service.
Still, the park is small, and the crowding around the stage was dangerous. The crowd ignored pleas to keep the sidewalks open for passage, and the DC police were nowhere to be seen.
While most of the crowd was spirited and well-behaved, the knuckleheads stood out. This incident, plus the tea bag attack on the White House and the odd hecklers, overshadowed the work that the organizers tried to do. The tea bags that were thrown over the White House fence effectively ended the protest an hour early, as the park had to be closed.