As protests against measures to stem the COVID-19 pandemic surge across the country, the Tea Party Patriots are entering the fray. They do so under the banner of the group’s 501(c)4 wing, Tea Party Patriots Action. Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin announced this week that the group would hold as many as sixty protests against “medical mandates” in at least 20 states on August 28. (See map below for disclosed locations).
While the protests mainly target government mask/vaccine mandates and potential business closures, they also aim at private institutions potentially implementing directives. Targeting the autonomy of private corporations is a slight twist for an organization that generally champions private property rights.
In her announcement, Jenny Beth Martin cited the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution (the actual legal basis of individual rights in the U.S.), to make a case for inalienable “individual liberty” and stress that “our forebears…decided to break away from England, and which has bound every succeeding generation since.” Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights network and other groups have used similar frames to stake out revolutionary and even secessionist political positions around the pandemic.
Through these “Just Say No Stop UnAmerican Mandates” events, Tea Party Patriots appears to be attempting a kick-start of its base by capturing the momentum built up in COVID denial mobilizations underway across the country. The pattern is reminiscent of the Tea Party Patriot’s involvement in the so-called “Stop the Steal” efforts to overturn the November 2020 election results.
In a Townhall article describing the COVID denial events, Martin noted that “we’re seeing a level of activity among the grassroots that we haven’t seen since the original Tea Party protests of 2009-10.”
Martin announced that “On Saturday, August 28, all over the country, Tea Party Patriots Action will be working with local grassroots leaders and activists to host events of all sizes.” Martin’s announcement continued, “The message to fellow citizens, elected officials, and private businesses is ‘No.’ There is no legitimate authority that exists to force someone to inject something into his or her body, or to force kids to breathe through dirty masks all day, or to close your small business down.” Martin also makes a particular appeal to healthcare workers, a trend in such protests in many locations.
While most of the TPP-listed events are rhetorically focused on COVID-19 related policies, the Tea Party Patriots Action announcement for a Corpus Christi, Texas event describes the issues of concern as “NO to CRT and children Indoctrination,” “No to COVID Mandates (Masks, Vaccines, Vaccine Passports, Lockdowns),” “No to Voter fraud,” and “No to Socialism.” This event is also hosted by Coastal Bend Tea Party, Coastal Bend Latinos for USA, Corpus Christi Moms for LibertyNueces County Republican Party, Coastal Bend Republicans, Coastal Bend Republican Women, and Coastal Bend Patriots Prayer Group, according to Tea Party Patriots Action.
The mix of COVID denialism, spurious allegations of voter fraud, and attacking efforts to address institutional racism under the guise of opposing “critical race theory” highlights a volatile set of frames that portend a potential radicalization of less-seasoned COVID denialism fellow travelers throughout these mobilizations.
IREHR is closely watching developments in the COVID denialism mobilizations and will have more to say on the topic in the very near future.