At the CPAC-Occupy beer summit
In my report on the Conservative Political Action conference in Washington I wrote that the Occupiers and the CPAC crowd "barely know how to talk to each other." My colleague Eddie Becker was there when it happened at CPAC this weekend.
Join the discussion below, or Read more at Salon.
“New to Rome”
Since: Jul 09
#1 Feb 13, 2012
I was there from start to finish. We drank Guinness and ate good food and got along splendidly. In attendance were some of the Occupy D.C. organizers, Tea Party organizers and Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project. We all stayed for several hours and parted as friends. At its high point there were over 30 people participating.
“New to Rome”
Since: Jul 09
#2 Feb 15, 2012
It started as a lark; Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project, author Hudson Flynt and I decided to leave the comfort of the CPAC convention and see if the Occupiers protesting outside would be willing to engage in constructive dialogue. We walked down the long driveway to a crowd of people with signs standing around an inflatable “Fat Cat” and chanting something about “Racist Teabaggers”.
From the start the conversation tended to focus on the things we agree on rather than things we don’t. The topics included jobs, no more bailouts, an end to crony capitalism and an end to the Fed. There was no shouting or personal attacks.
After an hour or so we invited a few of the organizers to come have a beer with us at the pub in the Marriott hotel. Although the security guards tried to stop them from entering the lobby, we explained that we were guests at the hotel as well as conventioneers and the Occupiers were our guests for dinner. After a quick walk through the lobby the “beer summit” began.
At the start there were eight of us sitting at two pushed together tables, but we were soon joined by Steve Eichler and Dale Robertson of “TeaParty.org” and several curious conventioneers of CPAC. One occupier identified as “Rusty”(real name withheld by request), jokingly mentioned that his side was beginning to be outnumbered, so he and I went back to the sidewalk and got a few more occupiers that looked like they could use a meal and a beer. We did our best to keep the numbers even.
Some of our discussions focused on the media; all three organizations had been portrayed badly by reporters. It is they that have painted Tea Partiers as racists and Occupiers as communists. It is the media that focuses its cameras on uninvited skinheads at the Tea Parties and Union bully thugs at the Occupy rallies. Movements are easily discredited by undermining interests and their media lapdogs; on that we completely agreed.
After about three hours Rusty and I went back out again to fetch his backpack and tent. I walked straight into the Occupier’s lines without a single word or even a dirty look. As I waited for Rusty to gather his belongings a loud argument between a CPAC conventioneer and some of the Occupiers ensued to my immediate right. What happened next was captured on video at http://youtu.be/eDEnQ27v39s .
About an hour later, while we were getting along and enjoying good company in the Pub, several thugs from the local pipefitters union showed up outside and began causing trouble. These union “protesters” were bused in and paid to protest according to our occupy friends. To quote Rusty,“They show up, cause trouble and leave before the cops do anything. It’s us real occupiers that end up taking a beating from the cops, not them”.
The “summit” lasted until the bar closed. We all took away from it an understanding and the hope that we could work together; at the very least we could support each other’s right to protest.
In the 1770’s, a group of people met in a tavern with a lot less in common than we have. Together these rabble rousers, statesmen and patriots had but one goal, to make the British Crown nervous. What would happen if Minutemen, Occupiers and Tea party members stood united against the government? Do you think it might make the Whitehouse nervous?
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