Listening to the fringe at a July 4 tea party.
It’s getting so you can’t tell regular Republican insanity from the lunatic fringe anymore. Take July 4, when a parade of local conservative luminaries— Philadelphia Bulletin publisher Tom Rice, columnist Herb Denenberg and State Rep. Curt Schroder, among them—gathered with 2,000 people at Independence Hall for a “tea party” devoted to protesting President Obama’s tyrannical, socialist rule of unending taxation.
“My final advice to Obama: Leave it or love it. You seem to hate America,” Denenberg snarled in a YouTube video made at the event. “Why don’t you move to Europe where they love you because of your socialist ideas? Why don’t you move to one of the banana republics or Venezuela, or Syria, where you seem to be more in tune with the tyrants and dictators than you seem to be in tune with the people of the United States?”
So it didn’t seem a huge leap when antitax activist Larken Rose took the microphone a couple of hours later, praised America’s Founding Fathers as “cop killers”—and wondered aloud why today’s citizens are too wimpy to follow in their footsteps. (A rough transcript of Rose's speech is available at his website.)
“Those people were criminals, they were tax cheats, they were traitors,” Rose told the audience, which had dwindled to a few hundred people in the late afternoon. “Truth be told, some of the colonists were cop killers.”
Where, asked Rose, were the Americans who were willing to break the laws passed by crooked politicians and fight back against “crushing” governmental taxation?
“I’m not talking about voting and whining to your congressman,” he told the audience. “I’m talking about resistance.”
That was Saturday. By Monday, leaders of the Independence Hall Tea Party Association were trying to disassociate themselves from Rose’s fringe comments without alienating his fans. They pointed out he spoke about 4 in the afternoon; their event—featuring Rice, Denenberg and the rest of Philly’s elite conservarati—had officially ended around 3, and Rose wasn’t on their program. A second tea party had been held on the same spot on the same day and even featured one of the same speakers, yes, but it was organized by a different group of people.
“The speakers we had at our tea party gave the message we wanted to portray—period,” says Chris Clemency of the Independence Hall Association.
Pennsburg resident Rob Pepe helped organize the second tea party under the “ReTeaParty” banner. He says he wasn’t the person who invited Rose—but suggests Rose’s speech was to be taken metaphorically.
“This is an educational revolution,” Pepe says. “It’s time to understand what liberty is all about.”
Rose—an author who served prison time for tax evasion—denies the legitimacy of the federal government and writes angry tirades against “Gestapo” police tactics on his website. It sure didn’t sound like he was speaking in metaphors. He mocked “Freedom Movement” members who vote and obey the law, and smilingly acknowledged a shout of “9/11 Truth!” from the crowd.
“If 2 to 3 percent taxation justified a revolution in 1776, why doesn’t 50 percent and growing justify a revolution?” Rose asked. “If a few little excise taxes on pieces of paper and tea justified open lawlessness from these rebels that were all celebrating, why don’t the myriad of incomprehensible, unavoidable, crushing taxes—state, local and federal—why don’t they justify a revolution today?”
Rose didn’t respond to an interview request from PW . But it’s worth noting that despite his fiery talk, he doesn’t always walk the walk. He urged his audience to refuse to recognize the authority of the government—but when convicted of tax evasion in 2005 he didn’t exactly go down in a hail of bullets: Instead, he was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison and lived to write and speechify another day.
His latest speech is giving local Republicans a headache.
“This is problematic when you have these types of yo-yos who come in and disparage the whole thing,” said WPHT talker Dom Giordano, who spoke at the first, less extreme tea party. “This is not radical central.”
Perhaps. But attendees of Philly’s tea parties have spent recent months carrying signs accusing President Obama of being a fascist tyrant who’s robbing future American generations of both their money and their freedom—and screaming for the necessity of revolt. That’s the sane stuff. Is it any wonder that an extremist like Larken Rose feels at home with the Fox News crowd? ■
Letters to the Editor