Last week I told you about my first TEA party. That was Monday, on Wednesday I went to one at lunch time in Simpsonville (the picture here were before the party started) and then I went to one Friday night that was much larger. And there was some opposition to the Friday night party.
The Simpsonville party was, by nature, small. I estimated around 100, the TV station there estimated about 200. Downtown Simpsonville isn't exactly a metropolis, so this was about what I expected. There was a single protester who had a sign saying "Obama's Will Help" (presumably, it meant his plan). The sign was quickly drawn on a cardboard box top. At the end of the meeting, signs were displayed with the number to call for the White House and for Congress. Everyone was encouraged to call one of the numbers and to let them know we were at a TEA party.
The Friday evening party was much larger. The police estimated 10,000, later estimates from the TV station with helicopter view estimated 6,000. The party was coordinated by the Upstate Young Republicans and there were several Republican speakers, but the crowd was far from died-in-the-wool Republican. When Congressman Gresham Barrett (who voted for TARP) was booed so loudly and longly, that his speech could not be heard.
There was also a counter-rally at the same time, behind the auditorium. I walked down there several times to get a feel for the rally. The meeting got off to a late start. Apparently, Leola Robinson-Simpson (see her webpage here) got tied up in the wrong meeting. My first thought was, if this lady, who is a Trustee for our local school board, was tied up in the wrong meeting, why is she leading our children? Scary.
The counter-rally actually was not so much anti-TEA (which would make it a coke party?), but a "Save Our Schools" (SOS) or anti-Sanford rally. For those outside SC, Mark Sanford is our Republican Governor. Because of term-limits, he's ineligible to run again in 2012 and appears to be positioning for a presidential run. He's spent the last 5 years as one of the new "young" right-wing conservative southern governors. He has, so far, turned down part of the stimulus money. There are many in the state who feel this is stealing from education. (SC has one of the worst education records of any of the 50 states.)
There were some "facts" given out at the SOS rally that I have questions about. To me, it sounded like the speakers were disappointed that the rally was so poorly attended. I did hear on the news that some of the participants moved to the TEA rally and a small ruckus broke out. Apparently, some TEA attenders asked them to leave (the news clip I saw showed SOS attenders yelling). But apparently, this was resolved without major incident.
My final thought for the day is that the TEA movement, while promoted by local radio and republican groups, is a big "grass roots" movement. The people attending are upset at government, but aren't quite sure why. The big test will be to see what happens from here.