A Day At Discovery Green With The Tea Partiers
Photo by Marc Brubaker
The noise leading into the November election is only getting louder, as the dissent on the right side of the nation grows deafening. Yesterday on Discovery Green, a group of at least 1,000 Houston Tea Party supporters and some from other spaces in Texas converged to hold a Tax Day rally in opposition to what they see as a tyrannical and overtaxing government led by President Barack Obama and his cabinet.
The event started at 4 p.m., and by the time Hair Balls was on the ground about an hour later, the lawn was already packed and the makeshift market a few yards away, with booths signing up partygoers for various action committees and selling literature and apparel, was alive with activity.
You cannot deny these people love their country, but it seems to be the angle that they are going at it that leads outsiders to balk at them.
It was a sea of red, white and blue on the Green. Signs with varying slogans blanketed the crowd. Some signs ranged from your standard lines about overspending and "Obamacare" to ones that cast the Obama as a dictator or the Cowardly Lion from Wizard Of Oz. One T-shirt even depicted the President as a fetus inside an acorn, a reference to embattled grassroots organization ACORN.
Of course, he was also drawn as a strange alien baby with ginormous ears.
Speaking of that, the depictions of Obama generally run from the hilarious (Heath Ledger's Joker, the aforementioned lion), to the utterly racist. But it's hard to argue any of those points considering that Dubya was marketed as Hitler, a chimp, and the Scarecrow from Oz. Is it a generational thing that has brought back the Baum characters?
Like Glenn Beck, we're just asking questions, gang.
The day was hosted by newly-installed KSEV radio host Sam Malone, late of KHMX 96.5 FM and his long-running slot on KRBE 104.1 FM which lasted most of the '90s. In between various Tea Party speakers Malone would keep the banter going, pointing out signs in the crowd that were especially rousing. He seemed to like the small banner with the baby crying on it for his money not to be wasted especially.
Hair Balls isn't gonna front, talking babies are kinda cool.
We spoke with Malone on the side of the stage about his move to KSEV and he was very upbeat about it and the Tea Party crowd in front of him. He began showing his conservative side in 2005 with his show on KPRC 950 AM, to some people's astonishment, and it has now earned him a spot in KSEV's right-wing talk line-up that also includes State Senator Dan Patrick, who also owns the station.
One speaker threw out the line that "We didn't land on Barack Obama; Barack Obama landed on us" echoing the Malcolm X line that many wouldn't know had they not watched his Denzel Washington-starring biopic one night on basic cable during a baseball rain delay. Its lines like this that don't broaden the Tea Party base, but very much push away prospective followers, if not befuddle.
One partygoer held a vintage Reagan/Bush campaign sign from the 1984 election proudly in the front of the stage and was cheered when it was pointed out by most every speaker. In a crowd so opposed to the "change" that Obama promised and pretty much has put in practice since Inauguration Day in January 2009, they sure do feel the need to hop back in the Way Back Machine to a time that wasn't all cookies and pie.
Bad things were happening back then too, just as they are now. Foisting and longing for the ideals of a now 30-year-old administration on our world now seems, you know, counterproductive.
Hair Balls assumed he would have been escorted out himself, considering our tattooed appearance, somewhere along the way, so we brought a sign from a Federal Reserve protest we found during a trip to Dallas in November to help blend in. We were actually treated great by organizers and partygoers alike for the two hours we roamed the grounds of the Green. You would think the Black Flag tattoo would have been a red flag, as it were.
Other folks weren't so lucky though. In fact if you voiced any sort of counter-opinion, you were summarily led out of the party.
During the early part of the day, a bearded Zach Galifinakis look-alike in a red shirt with "SOCIALIST" emblazoned the front was hustled out by security, Houston Police officers, and partygoers heckling him. The guy -- Zachary Prazak of Montrose -- sat on the side on a fence fielding yells and arguments with those who wanted to counter his shirt and accompanying political beliefs.
He and another man got into a heated debate on health care, with the Tea Party partygoer railing on "dumb poor people" for not having the cash for the $30 co-pay at emergency room.
Another man, army vet Randall Gulley, was also escorted out after he disrupted the Malcolm X-quoting speaker midway through his speech. Gulley said that he was there to look for support and a job. He has been unemployed for a few months now and hoped that someone there would be able to help him out. He produced a DD-214 to Hair Balls but seemed too frazzled to make any sort of statement as to his bedrock beef with the Tea Party. Most people thought that he was trying to cause a ruckus, when in fact he was actually looking for some sort of assistance. As soon as he led out by security, he made his way back in the main gate with no resistance.
Our own photographer Marc Brubaker was kicked out of the grounds at one point after a partygoer claimed that he was "cursing and yelling" at people in the crowd. A Discovery Green security was informed and then HPD took him out of the throng. A meeting with a Tea Party organizer created more confusion than clarity. We asked HPD brass on the scene to produce the guard who initially received the complaint, but we were told he was somewhere in the crowd. The soft-spoken Brubaker denied emphatically that he made any remarks to anyone on the grounds.
As we were leaving, the party's house band
launched into a version of Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World," a
song which was originally written in opposition of Bush Sr.'s foreign
policy, mentions leaving babies near trashcans in order to score dope,
and ignoring societal problems at large in a sarcastic tone. Keep in
mind Neil Young is a fervently liberal-leaning, Canadian-born ex-heroin
addict who has written numerous anti-war protest songs and...nevermind.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.