Thousands of protesters gathered April 15, amidst the colorful Fiesta decorations, at the Alamo and Hemisphere Park. Demonstrators waved signs and chanted, yet listened quietly as speakers, including conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, rallied support from the large, gray stage, protesting taxes and government control.
This was one of the many “tea parties” around the country on Tax Day, Apr. 15. These tea parties shared similar ideological values to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, one of the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. Some protestors at other events wore revolution-era clothing while less-extreme protestors wore tea bags.
The event in San Antonio was promoted by San Antonio Tea Party and Beck. He and country star-singer Ted Nugent both spoke at the event, along with 11 other speakers.
“No matter what happens, no matter what we lose, it’s going to be okay,” Beck said. “We have to be brave.”
Nugent made a few parting shots at the media, colleges and professors, but also made it clear to the crowd he was proud of Texas and some of the more conservative aspects of Texas. He summarized what he was most concerned about in a statement:
“The left is not the curse; Obama is not the curse; the curse is apathy,” Nugent said.
The actual number of people who attended the Tea Party is disputed. According to the official Web site of the San Antonio Tea Party, theythinkyouarestupid.com, 16,000 people were at the event; the Associated Press puts the number much lower, at 5,000. This dispute can also be attributed to people coming and going at different times during the six-hour event.
Regardless, the crowd appeared to be immense, easily occupying all of the Alamo Plaza, going down Alamo Plaza Street to Hemisphere Park. With prior notice about the event, authorities shut down that entire section of Alamo Plaza Street, and police were on standby, monitoring the rally and the crowd.
Some people waved signs that chanted, “Obama: Chains We Can Believe In,” “God Bless Rush and Sean,” and “Reboot the System.”
One of the protestors booed when the crowd cheered, and cheered when the crowd booed. His name is Mario Fuentes, and he carried an “Obama” sign with a blue checkmark that he handed off to a 2-year old child with him. He implies that his politics are “left-wing,” and he says he wears his Marine shirt because he is retired military.
“It’s just a bunch of dissatisfied Republicans. That is all it is,” Fuentes said. “They are all the way to the right, extreme. There ain’t nothing ‘left’.”
Vito Rizo-Eatrio, a Central Catholic High School student who was wearing a shirt supporting Ron Paul, also expressed concern over the bipartisanism of the tea party.
“I’m just curious about the demographic here. This is all white American and there’s no minorities here,” Rizo-Eatrio said. “I mean, every now and then you’ll see someone.”
“Yes – I can completely understand how someone would be skeptical about an event which headlined Glenn Beck, featured Adam McManus as MC and appeared to have a distinct tilt towards traditional evangelical Christian and the old-line Republican Party,” Julia Hayden, one of the speakers and a media specialist for the San Antonio Tea Party, said. “That also would be a hasty and superficial judgment: the San Antonio Tea Party is more about people who are strict constitutionalists, fiscal conservatives and favor less intrusiveness into the lives of citizens, rather than more. That makes for a fairly comprehensive big tent, even though many of us within the tent do have our differences over details.”
Blair Carlson held up a sign that on one side said, “I support and defend the U.S. Constitution ‘As-is,'” and on the other side “Drill Here, Drill Now. America Will Be Rich- Black Gold ‘Texas Tea.'” Carlson’s politics seemed to align with what Hayden talked about.
“My politics are: I believe in fiscal responsibility, I believe in the Constitution and I believe in individual rights,” Carlson said.
“I never thought that I would see a movement like this grass-roots movement. I’m proud and I’m sad at the same time that it had to come to this.”
Hayden said that small-business owners, gun-owners and other concerned individuals came together to support this party and make it happen. She cited various concerns about new regulations and controls by the government going into place, even citing the Fairness Doctrine for broadcasters as her chief concern. She said that the final straw for them was the stimulus package, a “bloated bag of goodies.”
“The total of all these various short-term and local benefits translates into a long-term, long-range disaster, which those who voted for it seem to be incapable of considering,” Hayden said.
Whether or not this event is a success is something Hayden isn’t sure of.
“This is real life, the real world; it is not wrapped up satisfactorily on the space of a half-hour sitcom or a two-hour movie,” Hayden said.
For someone like Carlson, however, this event succeeded.
“It is a success. It is only the beginning,” Carlson said, perhaps alluding to the tea party planned for Washington D.C. on July 4.
Hayden seemingly alluded to how the tea parties were going to be conceived and received by the general populace.
“Be involved. Be fearless in looking for answers. Don’t apply an ideological filter to what you find when looking for those answers,” Hayden said. “Don’t lock yourself into an information loop which reinforces your preconceptions.”