New Boston tea party: Sarah Palin leads defensive, defiant crowd

Sarah Palin headlined the Boston 'tea party' Wednesday, where the rallying cry was once again 'taxation without representation.' Attendees wanted to rein in politicians and combat the stereotype that tea partyers are radical and racist.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor
The Tea Party Express ended its cross-country tour in Boston where thousands rallied on Boston Common. Sarah Palin was a guest speaker. The populist tea party movement promotes fiscal conservatism.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor
Sarah Palin was the main speaker at the tea party rally in Boston.

The symbolism of the last stop on the Tea Party Express tour was not lost on the crowd or on Sarah Palin Wednesday morning not far from the original site of the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre.

Boston, if anyone knows how to throw a tea party, it is you,” she shouted to an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand.

For many of the several thousand who came, the event represents a fight for control of their destiny, as was the first Boston Tea party.

“We want to take back what’s ours,” said Karen Gareau, a dental hygienist from neighboring Rhode Island. “Politicians used to work for the people, now it seems we work for politicians. They’re not even listening to us and yet we have to pay these taxes. It’s taxation without representation.”

It has nothing to do with being racist or an angry mob, as some critics have charged, said Scott Hennessey who works in law enforcement on Cape Cod. He took the day off with a friend from work and his friend’s father. All three have served in the military in wartime.

“I’m not here because I’m angry, I’m here because I’m concerned,” he emphasized.

Placards that portrayed otherwise at other rallies did not represent the true feeling of tea partyers, many in the crowd agreed, and there seemed to be a particular effort to present a more moderate image.

Unlike earlier tea party events, signs insulting President Obama personally were not in sight. (A few showed the Obama campaign symbol with a hammer and sickle imposed over it.)

Instead, signs read “Mister Obama, it’s the politics, not the person” and “I’m a realist, not a racist.” Yellow “don’t tread on me flags” and American flags were selling for $5. People were wearing everything from tie-dye to military fatigues to suits, and some had donned three-corner hats.

Boston's tea partyers: Who were they?

Like most tea party event goers, Boston’s were mainly white – with one notable exception.

Lloyd Marcus, a performer and author of “Confessions of a Black Conservative” is traveling on his third national Tea Party Express tour. He took the stage to sing, “So when they call you a racist because you disagree, it’s just another one of their dirty tricks to silence you and me. I believe in the Constitution and all it stands for and anyone who tramples it should be booted out the door.”

“Are you a racist, angry, violent mob?” he asked the crowd. “No!” people shouted back.

It’s a point others in the tea party movement have tried to emphasize.

“I think it’s just ludicrous that people think this group is racist,” says Brendan Steinhauser, campaign director for the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks and author of “The Conservative Revolution.”

“If you look back at the march in Washington, there were 12 to 16 African American speakers that were embraced by the movement,” he says.

Image still a problem

Still, the image of an angry, white mob mocking a black president – fair or not – remains an issue for the tea party movement.

“I think there’s definitely an effort by some of the leaders and organizers of the events to reduce and eliminate some of this because it’s bad publicity,” says Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta. “It seems they’re trying to set some rules about what signs people can bring. To discourage those kinds of expressions.”

As the former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee was introduced, the crowd pressed forward applauding.

Palin accused President Obama of overreaching with his $787 billion economic stimulus program, and she criticized the administration’s health care, student loan, and financial regulatory overhauls.

Palin: 'You can keep the change.'

“Is this what their change is all about?” Palin asked. “I want to tell ‘em, 'Nah, we’ll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion and you can keep the change.' ”

Brenda Taylor from Lexington, Mass., was energized by Palin’s enthusiasm and outlook.

She’d worked on the campaign to elect Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts to the US Senate, and she saw this as a major turnaround for the traditionally liberal state. (For his part, Senator Brown has kept his distance from the tea party movement, and he did not take part in the Boston event.)

Taylor has been unemployed for the past nine months – the first time she’s been out of work since she was 16. She says she’s disappointed in the current government but has faith in Palin’s ability to rally.

“It’s really a wake-up call to America,” agreed Gayle Jendzejec of Rhode Island.

“We’re going to put government back on our side – the side of the people,” she said. “I’m quite optimistic. If you know where to look, there’s signs of real hope all across this country. Patriots are standing up and speaking out.”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.