Venom brews at DC's Tea Party Rally
- Length: 5:30 minutes (5.03 MB)
- Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR)
|If this critical news coverage is important to you, make a donation to FSRN to help keep independent media alive!|
By Leigh Ann Caldwell
People cheered as the Tea Party march was billed by one of the speakers as "the largest gathering of American conservatives." Although the crowd insisted 1.5-2 million people attended, the numbers were nowhere near that high. Compared to the inauguration that hosted nearly four million people, it was a small gathering. I would say estimates quoting 50,000 people would be accurate. Still, these "Patriots" had an air of excitement.
But underneath the excitement was a strong element of anger and fear. People expressed fear about loosing their rights, such as the Second Amendment. Some expressed fear about health care, and losing their life to "death panels." People expressed anger about taxes, the bank bail outs and abortion. They equated all this to Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's totalitarian Russia. Much of it was depicted on poster-board signs and in the voices of some as they talked about President Obama's and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "communist" agenda.
As a journalist, I was a target of their anger.
There was a cult-like following of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. Signs decried the rest of the media and crowds of cheering supporters surrounded the Fox News truck and swarms of people begged for one Fox reporter's autograph. Crowds surrounded the CNN bus, too, but they heckled and harassed the CNN crew, making it difficult for them to do their job.
As my videographer and I walked through the crowd to interview people, most passers-by wanted to know which outlet we worked for. Being an independent journalist that day attempting to freelance our work was an advantage. Some seemed reassured we weren't working for "state-run" media. This came on the heels of a Fox News report that independent journalists uncovered a scandal about the low-income advocacy group, ACORN, which is an organization subject to conservative scorn and disdain.
Some, though, were skeptical about the term "independent" journalist. I was called "liberal trash." My videographer was called a Nazi and a fascist.
The skepticism erupted into something more just after my last interview of the day. We met a group of nearly a dozen "912ers." They adorned t-shirts with the fractured Revolutionary War snake, the symbol of their group created by Glenn Beck. At the end of the 10-minute interview, they demanded my contact information and a picture so they could "find" me if they didn't like our work. I took that as a threat, declined to give them my contact information and walked away. They followed and continued with their demands. I continued to decline.
One of the woman then yelled into her megaphone that "the woman in the black shirt works for ACORN." She commanded the crowd to take my picture. They found out my last name from a previous interviewee, so she then yelled my full name into the megaphone and nearly 50 people surrounded and swarmed me, putting cameras in my face as they heckled and laughed. The crowd then followed me down Pennsylvania Avenue for the next ten minutes.
Here is some footage Robin Bell, my videographer, shot just after the initial confrontation.
I have covered dozens of protests in Washington, DC and have never experienced such an air of fear of diversity and thought. Many were militant in their beliefs.
A kind older man from Virginia, a participant in the days events, saw the altercation and came to my defense. As we parted he pleaded that I don't let that incident change my perception of the entire day.