By John Catalinotto
Published Apr 17, 2010 9:00 AM
Among the many so-called “Tea Party” actions mobilizing right-wing forces on the pretext of opposing paying taxes was one called by a local New York City group, which seemed to be based in Staten Island. The Tax Day rally, however, was set at the Central Post Office across from Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.
Though there was no Internet publicity of the rightist rally until April 15, the New York chapter of the Bail Out the People Movement quickly called a counter-protest. Following similar anti-racist protests in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, N.Y., and Boston, it was important that a political center like New York also have a response to what was in reality racist mobilization.
Since anti-immigrant media hack Lou Dobbs was the keynote speaker for the Tea Party, the rally automatically had an anti-immigrant character. In a measure of the impact of the BOPM and others interrupting the speakers and challenging them politically, TP speakers from the podium continually denied that the group was racist, sexist or anti-gay.
When Dobbs walked near the BOPM counter-demonstration, Fred Goldstein, a Workers World contributing editor, got up close and called him an “anti-immigrant racist demagogue.” BOPM organizer Tony Murphy yelled out that Dobbs was “a racist for the bankers.” They had him pegged correctly.
The TP had gathered about 1,000 supporters. Active counter-picketers numbered about 30 or 40 scattered around the edges of the barricaded rally, including a group of young people from Sisters and Brothers United from the Bronx and many individuals.
Some of the progressive activists distributed Workers World newspaper, with a lead article exposing the Tea Party as racist. When one wound up in the hands of the TP organizers, they were affected enough by the protest that a speaker quoted from the article.
Another speaker thanked the New York Police Department from helping out the rally by supplying its sound equipment. This is something that never happens for progressive demonstrations, of course.
In Raleigh, N.C., several dozen people gathered to protest Tea Party bigots, who were spreading their racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-immigrant message on Tax Day.
Tea Party organizers wore shirts that read, “Tea Party Militia-Staff,” perhaps a reference to Tea Party members’ recent efforts to form a right-wing armed militia in Oklahoma.
The Tea Party invited Wake County School Board member John Tedesco to speak. Tedesco is known for pushing a policy that amounts to a resegregation of Raleigh’s public schools. He thanked the crowd, whom he credited as the people who got the school board majority elected to challenge Raleigh’s diversity policy. His collaboration with the TP exposes the racist ideology of the school board majority and reinforces that of the TP.
The youth organization Fight Imperialism-Stand Together (F.I.S.T.) and other anti-racists from the Bail Out the People Movement in North Carolina shouted out chants of “Racist, sexist, anti-gay — Tea Party bigots, go away!” and “El pueblo, unido, no human is illegal.”
The Tea Party speakers, as in New York City, vehemently tried to deny that they were the “new KKK.” Some of the TP supporters held signs that on the surface appeared similar to the anti-racists’ signs, including opposition to bank bailouts and the war in Afghanistan. This showed how the TP leaders appealed to people’s economic insecurities, twisting this sentiment by scapegoating immigrants and building opposition to universal health care.
Several demonstrators were also able to get a positive message into the media. In New York too, counter-demonstrators were interviewed on Link TV.
Vidyar Sankar of Raleigh FIST contributed to this article.