On Saturday, August 2, 2014, about 200 almost all-white Moore County Tea Citizens and supporters gathered in Pinehurst North Carolina’s Cannon Park for a Fifth Anniversary Picnic and Rally. A three-piece country band played popular favorites. Three gray-haired women, full of vim if not vigor, were celebrated as the local Tea Party organization’s “founders.” The membership chair, Nancy Kasko, spoke about her anxieties and fears in February 2009, after President Obama took office. Organizations such as FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, the John Locke Foundation, and a dozen or so more sent speakers to the dais and had tent-booths set up on the grounds. And numerous Republican candidates or their wives spoke throughout the day. Although rain dampened the proceedings at points, the rally successfully presented a typical mix of Tea Party passion, far right ideological tutoring, and crass electioneering—without the explicit white supremacist rhetoric of Klan groups.
Not that Moore County had been free of such activity in recent times. On July 7, 1982, in the town of Robbins, about 20 Klansmen rallied with a group then known as the Carolina Knights. The following October, the Carolina Knights rallied at Thurlow’s Lake. That incident prompted more than 500 Moore County residents to sign an ad in the News Outlook saying, “This is not Klan Country.” A year later, on October 12, 1983, robed and armed members of the Carolina Knights harassed the family members of Bobby Person in Carthage. Person, a guard at the Moore County Correctional Unit, had applied for a supervisory position—a prospect to which Klan members objected with harassment and threats of violence. Although Bobby Person eventually went to court, with the aid of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and won protection, other Klan groups moved in to fill the vacuum left by the departing Carolina Knights.
In May 1988, the Christian Knights Ku Klux Klan had marched about 20 to 30 members through the town of Carthage and several smaller communities on a Saturday afternoon. They repeated the action in March 1991, when they marched again in Moore County.
The anti-racist viewpoint in Moore County was best expressed on September 9, 2013, when close to 1,000 county residents gathered in Southern Pines for a Moral Monday rally led by the NAACP. NAACP Moore County President O’Linda Gillis led the event, and Rev. William Barber II addressed the crowd. A write-up by the NAACP of the event noted that North Carolina had “gotten a bad image recently, because their representatives had been drinking a lot of tea.”
At the Tea Party rally in August 2014, Jay Delancy, director of the Voter Integrity Project (VIP) headquartered in Raleigh, took the microphone to make a fundraising appeal. The VIP is akin to the voter suppression organization True the Vote, the subject of a 2012 IREHR special report.
Indeed, Delancy had attended the 2011 True the Vote Summit in Houston, and claimed that he was “motivated by groups like the King Street Patriots (of Houston, TX) and their ‘True the Vote’ campaign.” He started the Voter Integrity Project that same year, before the current voting law, the Voter Information Verification Act of 2013 was passed. Now the VIP acts in concert with the law’s provision which allows vigilante-style activism. The VIP culls public records looking for “voter fraud.” Tea Partiers and volunteers visit Democratic Party leaning districts to investigate voters’ addresses, including making visits to specific addresses and interrogating residents when residents cooperate.
At the Moore County Tea Citizens rally, Delancy made his fundraising appeal by claiming the “NAACP is trying to stop us,” and said a photo he takes of the crowd holding up their photo IDs will “drive the Moral Monday crowd crazy.” He doesn’t need to explain his project to this crowd rather he simply wants to remind attendees that he and VIP are part of their movement.
The speaker from the John Locke Foundation, Becky Gray, had no other message than to say that her organization is an “ideas shop” promoting “personal responsibility,” and that she will be reappearing next week at a Moore County Republican Women meeting. Gray serves as Outreach Vice President for the Foundation, which aims to undue business regulation, decrease crime, and end the “costly, immoral, and destructive welfare state.” Becky Gray had information packets to hand out from her booth, which included copies of the Foundation’s monthly tabloid.
Speakers also showed from Americans for Prosperity, the Pope Center for Education Policy, the NC Family Policy Council, NC Values Coalition, Fair Tax, Grass Roots North Carolina, and other similarly minded ultra-conservative organizations. Representatives from the Randolph Tea Party, and Conservatives for Guilford County spread their message.
The most popular speaker at the rally, as measured by enthusiastic applause and rapt attention, was Deneen Borelli, an African American woman who serves as the Director of Outreach for FreedomWorks, a Tea Party organization headquartered in Washington D.C. She spent her time at the microphone lambasting the NAACP and the so-called “black liberal establishment.” Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the NAACP were her favorite targets, although neither the North Carolina NAACP, nor its president the Rev. William Barber, were apparently deemed worthy of her mention. The all-but-one white crowd greatly appreciated her attacks on these icons of black advancement.
A string of candidates for public office were listed as speakers on the printed program: Mike Robinson for the Supreme Court, a representative for Hunter Murphy for the Court of Appeals; Judge Bill Southern and Judge Paul Holcombe for the Court of Appeals and Steve Bibey for District 19-B District Court; Ed Dennison, Becky Carlson, Daniel Armstrong and Scott Cadell for the Moore County Board of Education; and Allen McNeil for Representative from District 78.