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Anti-racist protests confront Tea Party

By LeiLani Dowell

A visit of the “Tea Party Express” to cities in the Midwest — a region of the country that has been most devastated by the economic crisis of capitalism — did not go unchallenged. Rather, activists and community members confronted them at several stops to denounce the right-wing attempt to divide working and oppressed people and to show that the racist, sexist, anti-lesbian-gay-bi-trans, anti-immigrant, corporate-funded Tea Party does not speak for working people.

Buffalo, N.Y.

Buffalo, N.Y.
photo: Ellie Dorritie

The Tea Party is attempting to appeal to the popular discontent in the face of the economic crisis and attacks on working people in the form of budget cuts and layoffs. However, they want to fuel that discontent into a reactionary program that scapegoats immigrants, targets people of color and lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, and stands against women’s rights.

The group presents itself as a grassroots organization, but in actuality it’s funded by corporate, ultra-right organizations such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. These bigots have been heavily assisted by the corporate media in relaying their message to the public.

However, activists across the country are beginning to organize to confront the Tea Party and send a real message of unity and working-class solidarity.

Michigan

Michigan
photo: Cheryl LaBash

Some 50 counter-protesters staged a demonstration at an April 11 Tea Party Express rally in Clinton Township, Mich., a suburban area north of Detroit. Local progressives and anti-racists joined activists called out by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice; the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs; and Workers World Party.

“Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Tea Party bigots go away!” and “Health care is a right — fight, fight, fight!” were among the chants greeting those going to the neo-fascist rally. The chant “Against ‘big government’? Abolish the Pentagon!” highlighted the hypocrisy of the racists.

Michigan

Michigan
photo: Cheryl LaBash

The anti-Tea Party demonstration was covered by local media, which interviewed and videoed many of the participants. At a closing rally Chloe Secor, a Clinton Township high school student, denounced the racism and hate embodied by the Tea Party movement, saying it was not the legacy she wanted for her hometown.

That same day, a contingent rallied against the Tea Party Express stop in Berea, Ohio, near the Cleveland airport. Protesters carried placards stating “Free enterprise killed 29 miners,” “Health care is a right” and “Workers of the world, united for health care and jobs for all.” The demonstration received countless honks of solidarity and the support of passersby, including several young people who said they knew the Tea Party movement was corporately funded.

Ohio

Ohio
photo: Susan Schnur

Most of those participating in the Tea Party Express looked to be high-income employees, driving Hummers and pricy sport utility vehicles. One Tea Party participant screamed an anti-gay slur at the protesters, making clear the group’s homophobic sentiments.

On April 12 the Tea Party Express was confronted in Buffalo, N.Y. The Buffalo International Action Center, part of the Bail Out the People Movement, held a loud, visible, persistent and militant counter-demonstration. As they stood at the entrance to the rightwing extremists’ rally at Buffalo’s downtown harbor, the IAC and friends were an unmovable opposition, insistently chanting the whole time.

Activists in Boston are planning to challenge the Tea Party when it arrives there on April 14. A statement promoting the protest reads: “Sarah Palin and the so-called ‘Tea Party Express’ have announced that they will hold a rally at the Boston Common Bandstand starting at 10:00 am. This is the same group of ultra-rightwing, neo-fascist racists that have tried to exploit the current economic crisis by using the vilest racist tactics to attack Obama, unions, immigration, health care and the environment.

“While the demagogues, including Fox News and many others, that are in control of this group may try and hide behind populist slogans, it should be clear to all that their true goal is to further the political and economic program of Wall Street, big oil, the wealthy and the corporations, and they will stop at nothing in order to do so. ...

“We cannot stand by and allow Sarah Palin and the Tea Party to gather and try to use racism to divide us without a response. History has shown that only through organizing and mobilizing a strong, anti-racist, pro-working-class counterattack against both the economic crisis and racist division will we be able to successfully defeat these rightwing, neo-fascist organizations and their supporters once and for all.

Ellie Dorritie, Kris Hamel and Caleb Maupin contributed to this report.