Almost 100 Tea Partiers and anti-immigrant activists mounted a small and sometime languid protest of the NAACP, at the venerable civil rights organization’s 102nd national convention in Los Angeles on Sunday, July 24.
The dress for the day was Tea Party casual: No colonial era garb and wigs. Several Surf City Tea jackets and some yellow “We the People” t-shirts. One large Gadsden flag, three large American flags and smaller individually hand held flags for anyone who wanted one. From the speakers there was little patter about the Founding Fathers, and just a tad more discussion of taxes and debt. The topic of the day was the NAACP, how it might once have had a “noble” purpose, but its failure to stop violence by black mobs and Latino gangs rendered it just another cog in the Obama liberal-socialist-communist machine. The principle organizer of the event, Jesse Lee Peterson, told the crowd he wanted to “end the NAACP.” He received great applause.
Supposedly organized by Patterson’s newly formed South-Central Tea Party, most of the crowd looked decidedly Orange County rather than inner-city Los Angeles. There were about twenty black and a few Latino faces in the crowd. The South-Central Tea Party banner, inscribed with the slogan, “Power to the People,” and a video camera and speakers gave the event a professional pre-set character. The speeches attracted a couple of avid supporters of President Obama, who were passing by, stopped to have their say from the sidelines and resumed their walk down the street. A couple of television news trucks pulled up. Some noticeable old hands from the anti-immigrant universe were there.
One of the speakers was Barbara Coe, founder of the so-called California Coalition for Immigration Reform. Well known in California because of her role in starting the Proposition 187 debacle in 1994, Coe’s membership in the Council of Conservative Citizens puts her on the white nationalist side of the anti-immigrant movement.
As I wrote in my book, Blood and Politics: Proposition 187 was listed on California ballots as “Save Our State.” It mandated strict and punitive measures against undocumented or illegal immigrants. Entire families would be barred from receiving any public assistance, including routine medical care, and their children would be ineligible for public schooling. The initiative required teachers to screen their classrooms for students whose parents did not have papers. Similarly, medical personnel were to report undocumented patients to immigration authorities. The proposition was passed by voters, but its most stringent provisions were cut down in a series of court decisions.
That did not deter Coe. She later helped pay for a billboard on Interstate 10 that read: “Welcome to California, the Illegal Immigration State.” She constantly purveys the ugliest, racist conspiracy theories about Mexican nationals, and in the mid-1990s she joined Jim Gilchrist in the Minuteman Project, a vigilante group. She has since become a “birther,” claiming President Obama is a “Muslim;” a statement that should make Barbara Coe feel right at home in the Tea Parties.
William Owens Jr., editor of the Tea Party Review spoke for a while, but did not have much to say. He had recently done a gig at the 2011 CPAC conference, and published four issues of his magazine. The crowd reserved their biggest applause for his comment that he received no government subsidy for his magazine.
Nachum Shifren, a public school teacher and self-described “surfing Rabbi,” spoke at length. Long active in anti-immigrant circles, his speech focused on the ills supposedly created by “illegal” immigrants, Latino gangs, and the subsequent tax dollars spent on prisons. His main focus was the failures of public education. In 2010, Shifren ran as a Republican for the California state senate seat from District 26. He lost resoundingly to Democrat Curren Price, 81% to 13.8%.
Jennifer Roback Morse, from San Diego, came up to stand at the podium and say several times, “One man, one woman, one marriage.” She was looking for some new friends, and thinks she found them.
Jesse Lee Peterson, apparently the prime mover of the Tea Party protest, has a twenty-year history on the far right side of the street. He long ago supported Prop 187, Arizona’s draconian SB 1070, and similar anti-immigrant measures. He reportedly was on the board of Christian Coalition, and served on the board of directors of the Booker T. Washington Society along with J.A. Parker, formerly a registered agent of the apartheid regime in the Republic of South Africa. Making apologias for racism and white supremacy are his trademark response to all issues. And this Tea Party protest was no exception.