Day of Resistance Gun Rallies Stoke Tea Party Movement
Racism Remains an Issue
By Devin Burghart
At gun ranges, in park gazebos, at VFW halls, on city sidewalks and parking lots, and on the steps of state capitol buildings, the Tea Party driven gun rallies of February 23 succeeded in mobilizing dormant parts of the Tea Party base and attracting some new faces.
As IREHR first exposed last week, the “Day of Resistance” gunapalooza was organized nationally by the relatively new Tea Party group, TheTeaParty.net. Although mocked by a Huffington Post columnist for failing to raise a lot of cash for the announced rally, significant numbers of people turned out for events in every corner of the country nevertheless.
IREHR tracked rallies in 118 locations in 38 states on February 23. Rallies ranged in size from the eight people standing in the snows of Fairbanks, Alaska; to 260 in Atlanta, Georgia; to 600 in Dallas, Texas; to 800 at the state capitol in Boise, Idaho; to nearly 2000 in Bakersfield, California.
Turnout was high thanks to scores of local Tea Party chapters who joined with gun groups, militia outfits, and Birchers, to hastily organize events for February 23 (or .223 a symbolic nod to the far-right’s favorite ammo).
Participants listened to Tea Partiers and other far-right activists speak alongside local legislators and law enforcement officials. They waved yellow Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, “Come and Take It” flags, and a variety of pro-gun and Obama-hating signs. In some locations, there were even raffles for thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Activists were armed in those parts of the country where it was legal, some with assault rifles slung over their shoulders or pistols on their hips. For instance, Clint McQueen and his 7-year-old son, Chance, showed up to a snowy Salt Lake City rally with assault rifles slung across their backs. The 7-year-old with the AR-15 was in violation of the state’s open-carry law, according to a Utah Highway Patrol officer, and had to let his dad carry both.
Despite the fact that President Obama’s twenty-three executive orders would not take away anyone’s guns, there was significant levels of hysteria over a tyrannical “jack-booted” government storming around seizing everyone’s guns. For example, Stewart Rhodes, founder if The Oath keepers, echoed this sentiment at a dubiously titled “Civil Rights March” of around 300 gunners in Ventura, California. “We will NOT disarm, we will NOT comply, and we will RESIST,” he declared. Oath Keepers describes itself as an “association of currently serving military, veterans, peace officers, and firefighters who will fulfill the oath we swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.” In many respects it is a larger, better organized version of some of the 1990s militia groups that attracted law enforcement and military personnel.
There were a few high-profile Tea Party and gun activists of color speaking at different rallies, like Bobbie K. Ross, an attorney for the CalGuns Foundation in Ventura, California and TheTeaParty.net organizer Jennifer Burke in Phoenix, Arizona. But overwhelmingly, the speakers, and the crowds were white.
Signs and speakers in every region of the country repeatedly juxtaposed two different, but both racially-charged, straw-person arguments. On the one hand, many echoed Gun Owners of America president Larry Pratt, who participated in a recent discussion on how the first African-American president is raising a private black army to confiscate guns and massacre white Americans. The other notion, expressed at many times at these rallies, was that the government is too weak and impotent to protect Americans from roving hordes of heavily-armed (implicitly black) “gangbangers” and (implicitly Latino) “drug cartels.” These are both “law and order” arguments similar to the one used in the 1960s for whites to own guns.
This explicit and implicit racism was challenged in a number of communities on February 23. In some cases, human rights supporters took to the streets. In Pensacola, Florida, for instance, community members showed up to demonstrate against the use of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Plaza as the site for a (virtually all-white) gun rally. There one woman held up a noticeable sign which simply read “Where Are Your White Hoods?”
Along those lines, members of the white nationalist group, the American Freedom Party (the group previously known as the American Third Position Party), and other white nationalists in several cities mingled with the gun crowds, looking for new recruits.
What Does it Mean?
The issue of guns isn’t new to the Tea Party. As IREHR detailed in the 2010 special report, Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Tea Party Movement and the Size, Scope, and Focus of Its National Factions, there has been a “militia impulse” in the movement from the very beginning. This isn’t even the first time Tea Party groups have organized armed rallies. But this so-called Day of Resistance marks the largest series of coordinated Tea Party gun events. In IREHR’s estimate, it may also mark a turn for a definable sector of the movement.
Event reports are still coming into IREHR, but these initial reports indicate that rallies were generally larger than organizers anticipated. Further, the Day of Resistance rallies were larger, and more widely disbursed around the country, than the Gun Appreciation Day events in January.
Despite the recent victory of a gun safety candidate in an Illinois Democratic congressional primary, and her likely victory in the general election to come, opposition to any measure of gun control is widespread. And the Tea Party movement’s ability to capture a significant portion of this “gun rights” energy, will only stoke further its hard right opposition to everything the Obama administration favors—including any measure of humane immigration reform.
Indeed, the January “Gun Appreciation Day” and February “Day of Resistance” are reminiscent of how a smattering of initial rallies a few months in the first months of 2009 turned into big Tea Party rallies that April 15.
Even with Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring, look for stormy weather ahead on gun issues and immigration reform.
Day of Resistance Rally Attendance Data, as of 2/28/2013
|Idaho Carry Open and Concealed, Armed Women are Safer, Gun Rights Across Idaho, and the 2nd Amendment Alliance
|Women Warriors PAC, Sons of Liberty Riders
|9-12 Delaware Patriots
|Stockton Strategies LLC
|LibertyPulse.com, GNAT PAC
|The Committee of Correspondence
|Blair County Tea Party
|Dayton Tea Party
|The Apple Valley, CA TEA Party and Victor Valley JBS.org
|Hagerstown TEA Party
|Richmond County Tea Party Patriots
|Knox Trail Tea Party and Worcester Tea Party
|Salt Lake City