Protest Pissing Match: Occupy Little Rock vs. Tea Party

Tea Party Vs. Occupy ArkansasOver at the increasingly mindless and unreliable Arkansas Times blog, editor Max Brantley celebrates Saturday’s Occupy Little Rock demonstration, in which some 400-500 protesters gathered downtown and marched to the Capitol to protest corporate power. Brantley, who’s desperately trying to hype the Occupy movement into the vehicle that will at last give birth to the Progressive Heaven he’s been awaiting since 1968, tauntingly asks: “Did the Tea Party ever gather 500 in Little Rock?”

Why, it turns out those are numbers we can check! And the answer is, “Yes, and then some.”

Let’s look back to the April 15, 2009, Tax Day protests that marked the florescence of the Tea Party movement in America: According to a contemporaneous account by the Arkansas News Bureau’s John Lyon, who also reported on Occupy Little Rock yesterday, “more than 500 attended” the April 2009 Tea Party event in Little Rock.

Like Lyon, I was at both the April 2009 Tea Party event and Saturday’s Occupy Little Rock event, and the Tea Party event was significantly larger. (The Occupy Little Rock event was probably better organized.)

And let’s look beyond Little Rock. Here’s an old Arkansas Project post I wrote rounding up Tea Party action around Arkansas on that day. According to published reports in local papers, more than 1,000 attended in both Jonesboro and Mountain Home (unfortunately, a lot of those local paper links have expired). The City Wire reported that more than 500 attended a Tea Party event in Fort Smith, and my post takes note of other Tea Party events in Bentonville, Fayetteville and Pine Bluff.

And check out the photo on this post from a follow-up Tea Party event on July 4, 2009, in Mountain Home. That’s a lot of damn people to show up to a political demonstration on a holiday.

So yes, within Arkansas, the Tea Party movement was “larger” than anything the Occupiers have thus far fielded. Now, let’s be clear: I don’t think the question of which movement fields the larger demonstrations is especially important, as the number of people who show up to wave signs and chant in protest is not a particularly useful barometer of lasting political impact.

After all, it wasn’t the Tea Party demonstrations in early 2009 that were important, but the organizing in late 2009 and 2010 that helped to energize alienated right-leaning voters aghast at the direction of the government in the Bush-Obama era. (And yes, in come places the Tea Party influence was damaging to Republican Party aims, likely costing U.S. Senate seats in states like Delaware and Nevada.)

But if comparative size is the standard that Max wants to set, as he posits in his post today, then there’s no question: The Tea Party in Arkansas was far larger and more consequential than the Occupiers have been, or likely will be.

Comments

  1. It should be mentioned that both the Tea Party folks and the Occupy [city] folks would be happy with less corporate influence on the gov’t. They both, generally, oppose the independence of the Federal Reserve from Congress. They have more in common than you’d think, and I’m sure that the core of both resents being attached to a political party. The Occupy movement is trying to learn from the Tea Party by trying to distance themselves from Democrats.

    • David Kinkade says:

      Matt,
      I agree with that assessment. Though it’s not reflected in this piece, I made a similar argument in my earlier post on Occupy Little Rock: http://wp.me/pijot-2BZ. I’m not yet certain that the common ground between the two movements is large enough to build a constructive partnership, but I’ll be interested to see if it can develop.
      D.

    • In my opinion, any appearance of common ground is superficial. Yes, both are upset about crony capitalism, the Fed, etc., but for different reasons and with different end points in mind. The Tea Party is about fiscal and personal responsibility, and wants government to shrink. The Occupy folks are about fairness and social justice, and want the government to steal from the rich to give to them.

  2. Steal from the rich? Since when are the middle class supposed to pony up a higher percentage of their income than the rich? It’s more like the multi-billion dollar corporations need to pay more than zero. They’re not asking for them to pay more than their share…just to pay something. I pay more taxes than 52% of US companies and 72% of FOREIGN companies. Making these companies pay their taxes is not giving to the Occupy folks…it’s paying their share to help this country become great again (i.e. fund infrastructure projects, education, public transportation, etc.) http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/08/12/us-usa-taxes-corporations-idUSN1249465620080812

  3. As long as there are national conservative figures like Andrew Breitbart, and local ones like Dave Elswick, bashing the OWS group there will never be a partnership between it and the Tea Party. The conservative media has already pitted them against each other and largely ignored the major elements they share.

    Somehow in their mind, protesting Wall Street = protesting all people who are wealthy or have successful businesses. Nevermind the fact that most of us don’t really see the importance of Wall Street banks in our daily lives except when they are on the verge of imploding and, y’know, destroying our economy.