Counter-protesters attacked by some tea party participants at Tampa tax-day rally listen04/18/11 Christopher Davis and Lenka Davis
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Fewer than 1000 people turned out Last Friday for the Tampa Tax Day Tea Party Rally, even though organizers expected more than 5000. Marco Rubio, Ralph Reed and many others gathered to speak about lower taxes and government spending, to denounce the new health care law, and to protest undocumented immigration.
Ralph Reed from Faith and Family Coalition spoke about religion and freedom, but also encouraged the Tea Party activists.
"When people were writing the premature obituary of conservative values and principles, there was one group of people who stood up in season and out of season and stood in the gap and lifted high a banner of bold colors and not pale pastels, and it was the Tea Party movement."
American exceptionalism is a concept that is often used to mean that the United States is superior to other nations. Floridaâ€™s junior U.S. Senator, Republican Marco Rubio, tied his version of American exceptionalism to reduced government spending.
"Our government spends money it does not have and not a little bit more, it spends a lot more. It borrows $4 billion a day just to keep the lights on in the federal government. The alarming part of it is that a significant portion of this money that we borrow is used to pay interest on the debt. Interest of which a significant portion goes directly to China. If you watch some of the things that China is building up, it's your interest, it's your tax dollars."
The rally was advertised as a non-partisan event, but voter registration stands had the GOP logo and the Republican Party had its own stand to recruit volunteers. The Party was also often mentioned in the speeches. Who were the majority of attendees?
There were many interesting protest signs and interpretations at the rally in the parking lot of Tampaâ€™s professional football stadium.
"Defend our Republic. Fight liberal lies, progessive politicians, socialism and communism. Protect our borders. It needs to be secure so the Mexicans don't come across. They're dope runners. If they come in and do it legally, then it's a different story. And I don't like the deal of bringing the kids across here, being born here and getting citizenship."
"Somewhere in Kenya a village is missing it's idiot. President Obama, Barack Hussein Obama, is a Marxist."
"Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Osama bin Laden, and Michael Moore. There's a rumor going around that they've got Pinocchio noses from lying so much."
The Tea Party was promoted in 2009 by Fox News, calling for a national day of protest. Its corporately funded beginnings have shaped the agenda, but many tea party patriots believe they are part of a grass roots effort.
"There's no money funneled into us like the sources. It's us who pay for everything. We're not funded by anybody, it's our own means that we're so adamant about getting back to grassroots that we will put everything on our own financially, on our backs."
This anti-tax day rally is not just about protesting taxes, but also a way ushering in support for other conservative principles like corporate and free market economies, pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-church. There were few counter-protesters except two lone voices of opposition. One was John Russell.
"How much did they pay you today, the corporate sponsors? This is corporatism, baby. You're all being duped. I'm a health care professional, I understand how to develop long term health care policies. '...' '...' everyone should just pay out of their own pocket for health care."
Russell was filmed being cursed at by tea party attendees and shoved by a male and hit by a female. This was caught on tape by the other counter-protester, Chyrisse Tabone. The video she took also shows her being kicked and hit by the female, who she says was identified by the police as Lisa Carole Bamberger of St. Petersburg.
Tabone questions the idea that the tea party is non-violent and inclusive.
"I was attacked. I have a police report in hand, I was kicked in my leg, I was hit in my face. My husband was assaulted. All we were doing was standing here, I had a sign and I was filming and this woman started kicking and railing on me. We're just exercising our free speech because there's a lot of misinformation, there's a lot of propaganda that's being put out today with this 'tea bag' movement. They claim they're grass roots, they're not, they're sponsored by Koch brothers and Fox news, and they're a hate group and we have the nerve to out here to counteract them."
Tea party-backed candidates beat moderate challengers in the 2010 midterm elections, helping Republicans take the U.S. House of Representatives and pick up seats in the Senate. Fridayâ€™s rally suggests the movement has its sights set on 2012 and beyond.
Video of tea party members, including a woman identified as Lisa Carole Bamberger, kicking, hitting, and shoving John Russell and Chyrisse Tabone. Filmed by Tabone & used with permission. Warning: some tea party members on this unedited video use foul language: