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“In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which, as any American high school student can tell you, was an act that apparently had something to do with stamps.”     Dave Barry

April 16, 2009

Alabama Tea Party Report

by Stephen Gordon

tea-party-photos-rpRobert Stacy McCain and I just got back from our second Tea Party of the day. First, we went to Tuscaloosa for the rally being held at the University of Alabama. McCain was the first speaker, and considering that he’s a DC-based Alabama football fan, he probably couldn’t have messed up his speech, even if he tried. There were about 500 people there. As we had to be in Hoover right after his speech, I can’t report very much about the rest of the event. I did grab some pictures, and here’s one of two Ron Paul supporters holding their signs.

We raced to the Birmingham event, and made good time until we hit a major traffic jam.  While I expected a good crowd, I wasn’t expecting nearly the amount of people who showed up.  McCain was insisting that it was Tea Party traffic, while I figured there was an accident ahead.  As this may be the only time he ever sees these words coming from my keyboard, he may wish to savor them a bit: Yo, McCain — you were right and I was wrong.

I’d estimate that around 7,000 people (there was another Birmingham area event held earlier in the day with around 1,000 people reported in attendence) were there.  As people were coming and going throughout the event, total attendance was even higher.

tea-party-photos-crowdIt was tough obtaining any photo which accurately depicted the amount of people in attendence.  Hopefully, when the Fox (or local television) video hits YouTube, it will provide a better indication of the crowd size than this picture on the right.

I’ve not seen any Birmingham News (the dominant local paper) coverage of the latter event, yet, but here’s one early report from a reporter who obviously left early.  McCain tells a bit more:

Famous Alabama radio personalities Rick and Bubba were doing a live TV remote with Sean Hannity. Alabama gubernatorial candidate Tim James spoke; leading Republican observers in the state say he’s the man to watch for 2010.

Next up was Birmingham talk-radio host Lee Davis, who did a James Brown hardest-working-man-in-show-business performance. By this time, I’d found my Samoan lawyer buddy Bert, who lives in Birmingham and joined me backstage. The lady came to tell me I was next up after Davis — a tough act to follow.

But hey, I’m Mack the Knife. I killed. I told ‘em how my buddy Stephen Gordon broke the story about the DHS report about “right-wing extremists,” and then:

Since I work in Washington, I contacted my source at the Department of Homeland Security and asked him what I should be on the lookout for. And I’ve got my notes from that interview with me. You might be a right-wing extremist if . . .
. . . you refuse to bow to Saudi royalty.
. . . you think the only good pirate is a dead pirate.
. . . you don’t think it’s a good idea for politicians in Washington to borrow another trillion dollars you grandchildren will have to repay.
. . . you think you know how to run your life better than a bunch of ‘experts’ in Washington.
. . . you believe in God, but don’t think that Obama is the Messiah.
. . . you believe the only reason you have First Amendment Rights is because of your Second Amendment rights.

That may not seem too funny just reading it on a blog, but the magic was in the delivery. It went over very well with a big fired-up crowd. Alabama people are the finest people on the planet.

After the rally, went to the Five Points Grill for a celebratory dinner with friends, where various right-wing conspiracies political plans were discussed. Between Gordo and his buddies, I’m pretty sure they’ve got the whole dang state locked up for the foreseeable future.

McCain was correct when he stated the the lines went over well.  The noise from crowd at both events provided the evidence.  He’s pictured here reading from the list of traits of right-wing extremists he acquired from his imaginary friend at DHS.  His shoes were likely muddied in our rush to get to the latter event on time.

tea-party-photos-rsm

It seems that everyone (while I was there, at least) followed the advice I offered about sticking to a fiscally conservative message.  Several people there told me that they had read and appreciated that blog posting.  It was appropriate, as there was a wide mix of conservatives, libertarians and Campaign for Liberty folks.   Of the speakers I observed, McCain deviated from the fiscally conservative role more than anyone else when giving the “You might be a right-wing extremist if…” portion of his speech, and I’m the one who suggested the God/Messiah line to him.

Obviously, there were a lot of fairly typical Republicans in attendance.  I recognized plenty of LP members, people I knew from the previous Alabama Tea Party, people from the Ron Paul campaign, and a few people that I think (note to self: follow up on this one) are Democrats.

I met quite a few people, including this conservative blogger with a blog title that’s almost as cute as she is in person.  Unfortunately, she didn’t keep her promise of becoming The Official Lady Godiva of the Tax Day Tea Party.

Quite a few people thanked me for my role in delivering the DHS report to the Internet, one nice lady literally shedding tears of gratitude.

Unlike some of the Internet responses I’ve received from some Republicans, people congratulated me for tackling what could have been a difficult television interview well.  One person thanked me for informing him that Mike Huckabee likes tax increases as much as Bob Riley does.  Some either didn’t seem to get the Alan Keyes point I made — or don’t care.

Some of the feedback from the Atlanta rally I’ve received so far was mixed, but I’m sure Jason Pye will fill us in when he gets the chance.  There were an estimated 15,000 people at the event and this article reports (not sure what the reporter meant at the end of the first sentence) the following:

Although they did take part in the tax protest, some Georgia Libertarians said they have no use for Sean Hannity, who they call a Republican “lackey”, for either the Republican or Democratic Parties.

“I’m no fan of Barack Obama by any means,” said Libertarian Christopher Barber, “but Bush grew government. The entrenched Republicans grow government.”

I did hear that libertarian radio personality Eric von Haessler delivered a great speech in Hotlanta.

From an activist point of view, the Birmingham event was clearly a success.  There was no astroturfing, despite the Sean Hannity media presence.  There were no big-government Republican speakers, unlike what I hear about other events.  I’m sort of confused about why folks in Columbia, SC invited Tax Hike Mike to speak at their tax rally.  Isn’t that the same as inviting Satan to be the guest preacher at church?

Today may go down in the history books as the day America reversed course on fiscal policy.  Alternately, today could be remembered as a day with good rallies, but nothing changed afterwards.  What this movement does in the future is still to be determined.

UPDATE: As to be expected, the Birmingham News under-reported participation. “At Hoover’s Veterans Park, police directed traffic as several hundred people gathered for one of more than a dozen rallies in Alabama and more than 500 around the country,” they wrote.

Later, they updated their report to say: Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos estimates the “Tea Party” rally at Veterans Park drew at least 5,000 people on Wednesday.

Petelos said he stopped by the rally about 8:30 p.m. after church. He noticed cars packed in Spain Park parking lot, lined on Valleydale Road and in the parking lot of a nearby Jefferson State Community College satellite campus.

Petelos said one resident told him it took him an hour and a half to get from the Interstate 65 exit at Valleydale Road to Veterans Park.

Petelos said attendance estimates were based on the number of cars the parking lot could handle. “I’d say there were 3,000 cars with two people to a car that’s about 6,000,” he said. “I feel very safe saying there were about 5,000 people.”

I’ll still stand by the 7,000 number I used, as there were a lot people both arriving and leaving throughout the event. Combined with the mechanism used by Petelos to estimate attendance and the amount of people coming and going I observed, this makes sense. Other organizers felt pretty comfortable with the 7,000 number, as well.

UPDATE II: Here’s a great photo I found on Flickr of two protesters.

UPDATE III: Local Campaign for Liberty leader reports in a blog comment:

The highlight of the event in Birmingham was Beth Chapman, our Secretary of State.

Unbeknowst to most people, she showed up unannounced at the back of the stage and demanded to speak. Apparently she wasn’t there when I announced that no elected officials would be speaking and that at this rally politicians would listen to we the people.

As a matter of fact, she wasn’t there when the Rainy Day Patriots (25 in number) stood on 280 in the middle of a tornado warning with their protest signs. She wasn’t there during our organizational meetings. She wasn’t there during setup of the event. And she certainly wasn’t there during cleanup.

Needless to say, she wasn’t a very happy camper when she was told “NO”. I guess politicians are not used to being told no because she lingered for another 30 minutes quibling for a speaking spot.

It was a great day in Alabama when a group of citizens can grow their numbers from 25 to 7000 in a couple of weeks and tell our politicians “NO!”

UPDATE IV: This local blogger provides a lot of pictures from earlier in the day while we were in Tuscaloosa or stuck in traffic. She also notes what she thinks the tea party was about:

To sum up the rally, I think most of us were there because we want something to change in Washington:

* Taxes are too high
* Government is TOO big
* Spending money like there’s no tomorrow
* Our future as a great nation is at risk
* Get back to our Constitution that was founded by our forefathers

UPDATE V: TheRightRant provides more photos and adds: “Ayn Rand signs were every where. The people see where America is headed and they don’t like it.”

UPDATE VI: The AmericanConservativeDaily reports:

Birmingham- 5,000
Huntsville- 2,500
Montgomery- 2,300-2,500
Mobile- 1000
Trussville- 1,000

There were other, smaller events in Alabama, as well. 300 participants were reported in Hueytown.

UPDATE VII: WYDE has some photos here. Shana Kluck provides more details from Alabama events here.

It appears that the Tea Parties held in Alabama yesterday were a rousing success.  It’s reported by ABC News (and my friend and attendee Shirrell Roberts) that the Montgomery Tea Party held at noon on the Capital steps had about 1,000 people.  Great job, Matt Givens and Cindy Wright, in organzing and promoting this event!  This is what Shirrell said after the event-

It really fired me up just seeing common everyday folks give a rip about the direction this country is headed.  Sometimes it is easy to become cynical. Yesterday restored my faith in the people of this country.

In Tuscaloosa, David Steele, Wells Robinson and Jeff Galle (law students at UA and bloggers at SquareWon.org) organized the Tea Party on the Quad at the University of Alabama.  There was a crowd of at least 300 people there by the time the first speaker, Robert Stacy McCain, was finishing up, and it looked like more were on their way in.

Immediately following Stacy’s speech, we headed over to the Birmingham Tea Party, where Stacy would be addressing the crowd there as well.  Traffic to the event was backed up for miles and it was no surprise to hear it announced from stage that the crowds were estimated to be around 7,000.  Stacy wowed the crowd again with his ‘You might be a right-wing extremist’ routine.  My favorite quote?

You might be a right-wing extremist if you believe in God, but don’t believe that Obama is the Messiah.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James also spoke about fiscal responsibility and the necessity for Alabamians to hold DC to a higher standard.  The crowd was obviously receptive, excited, positive and hoping for better things for the future.

UPDATE VIII: Doug Mataconis wants to know what government spending Tea Partiers would like to see cut.  Let’s give him a big list.

UPDATE IX: The Tuscaloosa News covered our earlier, smaller protest of the the day.  According to a local friend who called, the picture of McCain covers most of the front page — both above and below the fold.  They also provided this video footage, with a quick interview of McCain at the end.  His two-part message: Organize! Roll Tide!

UPDATE X: McCain and I just spent an hour on the air with Birmingham 101.1FM talk show host Lee Davis.

UPDATE XI: Here’s video of McCain’s speech.


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16 Comments

  1. Great write-up. I was a speaker at the tea party in Albany, Georgia, a personal highlight of my life so far, and I had the same experience you describe in regards to a lack of Republican astroturfing. The message was, primarily, fiscal responsibility by pretty much everyone. We had about 500 people according to a local TV station’s estimate. I don’t know the numbers, but there were a lot more than I was afraid of. (I wrote a bit of a write-up on the above linked blog)

    I think the key thing though is to not let this end here. We need more protests, coordinated if at all possible, to really affect change. Polls are showing that most people don’t think anything will change. With only one protest of this magnitude, it won’t. But if this is repeated over the years, more and more will come and the end result will be the changes we’re all hoping for.

    Of course, my fear is that once the Republicans are in control, a lot of these protesters won’t be around anymore.

    Comment by Tom Knighton — April 16, 2009 @ 1:45 am
  2. Howdy Tom, fancy meeting you here!

    (For the rest of you, Tom is my partner both at SWGA Politics and in SWGALP organizing efforts.)

    In Leesburg GA, just north of Albany, there were a FEW libertarians – me and a couple of guys that are about to become ‘L’ibertarians – but one of the more prominent speakers was the leader of the local Tax Hike Mike contingent. 17 yo kid, so one can only hope that he’ll grow out of it. I know I was similarly confused at that age.

    GREAT write up on Birmingham though, and I too am looking forward to seeing Jason’s write up on Atlanta.

    Comment by Jeff — April 16, 2009 @ 2:31 am
  3. I’m no big fan of guys like Sean Hannity and Rush, but the few times I have listened to Hannity’s radio show, he has emphasized that he is a conservative first, and not a cheerleader for the GOP – and I did hear him being very critical of a lot W’s decisions over the past couple of years. And being VERY critical of the “leftwing” repbulicans like Snowe, etc.

    He did become an unabashed cheerleader at election time – both in 04 and in 08. But again, from the few times I happened to listen, my impression coming away from it was that his focus was to PREVENT the election of Kerry and then Hillary/Obama.

    He pretty much came out and said that McCain was simply the less worse choice than the Dem – and not that McCain was, by any means, ideal.

    So….”Lackey” for the Republican Party itself? Debatable. Arguably yes, at least during election season. But any Libertarian who called him a “lackey” for EITHER the Republican OR the Democrats(!), is an ignoramus.

    I firmly believe that in order for this movement to try to gain back control over the insane growth and increasing power of the federal government, to grow and ultimately succeed, it is necessary to reject any participation from the hypocrite Republican elected officials currently in office or formerly in office (Newt?) who have never had a problem with growing the government, and who repeatedly lie to us while they are campaigning about “fiscal responsibilty” etc., and then backstab us as soon as they get to Washington.

    But I think it will be a mistake to try to isolate this (hopefully growing) movement as being some sort of exclusive ideological domain of Libertarians; who may or may not agree to grudgingly share their spotlight with some less ideologically pure “typical Republicans.”

    The time has come to try to build solid coalitions across ideological sprectrums, in my humble and very non-expert opinion – which means finding and focusing on areas of common ground and common interest, and embracing those areas of common interest. Libertarians need people like conservatives and vice versa. E.g., atheists and evangelical bible thumpers who share the same view on local vs. centralized govt., deficit spending, taxation, etc., should leave their differing views on religion at the door.

    Just my opinion.

    Comment by southernjames — April 16, 2009 @ 4:44 am
  4. Stephen,

    The highlight of the event in Birmingham was Beth Chapman, our Secretary of State.

    Unbeknowst to most people, she showed up unannounced at the back of the stage and demanded to speak. Apparently she wasn’t there when I announced that no elected officials would be speaking and that at this rally politicians would listen to we the people.

    As a matter of fact, she wasn’t there when the Rainy Day Patriots (25 in number) stood on 280 in the middle of a tornado warning with their protest signs. She wasn’t there during our organizational meetings. She wasn’t there during setup of the event. And she certainly wasn’t there during cleanup.

    Needless to say, she wasn’t a very happy camper when she was told “NO”. I guess politicians are not used to being told no because she lingered for another 30 minutes quibling for a speaking spot.

    It was a great day in Alabama when a group of citizens can grow their numbers from 25 to 7000 in a couple of weeks and tell our politicians “NO!”

    Comment by Marcelo Munoz — April 16, 2009 @ 7:55 am
  5. [...] Marcelo Munoz: Stephen, The highlight of the event in Birmingham was Beth Chapman, our Secretary of State. Unbeknowst… [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » MD and AL: Two Tea Party items of interest — April 16, 2009 @ 9:16 am
  6. GO ALABAMA! We better take America back cause the liberal, demo, fascist, communist are sliding it to Hell in neckbraking time!

    Comment by John — April 16, 2009 @ 12:21 pm
  7. Old Russian saying…You can tell same lie 1000 times but not change truth!

    Difference between USSR Communist media and USA “mainstream media”

    In Russia government make media say what they want – even if lie.
    In USA “mainstream media” try make government what they want – even if lie..
    …..eventually they become same thing?!

    I Igor produce Obama Birth Certificate at http://www.igormarxo.org

    Comment by Igor Marxomarxovich — April 16, 2009 @ 3:24 pm
  8. [...] Birmingham, AL — 5,000 to 7,000 (see also The Liberty Papers) [...]

    Pingback by Hundreds of Thousands Attend Tea Parties | BlatantlyTrue.com — April 16, 2009 @ 4:45 pm
  9. [...] at the Birmingham Tea Party, quite a few Republicans thanked me for my role in bringing the Department of Homeland Security [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » Two Quotes of the Day — April 16, 2009 @ 10:27 pm
  10. Thanks for putting a link to my blog article. As you can see, I got a lot of flack for posting that & my husband really got pounced on for his t-shirt! Oh well, this is America & last time I checked, we still have freedom of speech. Thanks for a great recap!

    Comment by Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality — April 17, 2009 @ 5:18 am
  11. [...] From the Alabama Tea Party at Veterans Park in Hoover, Ala. Stephen Gordon has a good roundup. [...]

    Pingback by The Greenroom » Forum Archive » VIDEO: You Might Be a Rightwing Extremist If . . . — April 17, 2009 @ 10:45 am
  12. [...] Good stuff from the Alabama Tea Party. [...]

    Pingback by Extremist Update: Tea Party Edition | The Classic Liberal Blog — April 17, 2009 @ 3:58 pm
  13. [...] …via the Lady Godiva of the Tax Day Tea Party and the big pimp daddy of blogwhoredom, I’ve posted video of the speech Robert Stacy McCain delivered at the Birmingham/Shelby Country Tea Party in Alabama. [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » You might be a right-wing extremist if… — April 17, 2009 @ 4:44 pm
  14. [...] The Liberty Papers, reportage on the recent Alabama Tea Party. There’s a longish video of this on the site as [...]

    Pingback by From the Alabama Tea Party | ten billion butterfly sneezes — April 18, 2009 @ 7:07 am
  15. Love to hear about a politician in a snit.

    Great stuff.

    Comment by tahDeetz — April 19, 2009 @ 2:43 am
  16. [...] I’ve been praising Robert Stacy McCain while being a mildly critical of Andrew Sullivan regarding Tea Parties.  Today, Sullivan makes up [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » Today’s Winners and Losers — April 20, 2009 @ 9:20 am

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