Today’s big Capitol Hill Tea Party, promoted by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), is getting ready to begin this morning, and already about 1,000 people are there, many of them arriving on buses sent by the event’s organizers. This is not like the failed flash-mob from last week — it’s a seriously organized protest.
Attendees are set to go inside the Capitol itself, and personally lobby members of Congress to oppose the Democrats’ health care bill. Many of them are carrying the Gadsden Flag and other protest signs. There is no sign of any increased security on Capitol Hill, which some Tea Partiers and their supporters had warned about.
One attendee was a man named Keith, a disabled veteran from Goldsboro, North Carolina, bused in this morning with about 50 other people from his area, and who was carrying an empty suit on a pole. “Look, the lights are on but nobody’s home in there,” said Keith, pointing at the Capitol. asked if that was directed at any specific people in Congress, he replied: “Pick one.”Is this group misunderstood? “It’s people that don’t come to these rallies that don’t know what’s going on at these rallies,” said Keith. “I’ve been labelled an extremist, but I’m a patriotic, gun-toting American veteran.”
Late Update: The crowd has now grown to between 2,000-3,000, and is increasing by the minute with chants of “Can you hear us now?” A man with a bullhorn is calling for a sit-in at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in the Cannon Building, at 1:45 p.m., to read the 1,900 page bill aloud page by page. “We’re going to have a sit-in,” the man declared. (Note: Pelosi’s actual office as Speaker is in the Capitol, and her Cannon office handles her duties as a member for her home district.)
Late Late Update: One thing that would surprise an outsider at a Tea Party rally would be the diversity of opinion that would be found within the crowd. While presumably all of the protestors are opposed to the health care bill, there are very differing views about the government itself. For example, Dorothy Manthey, from Port St. Lucey, Florida, told Evan McMorris-Santoro she had lost complete faith in her government. “I never thought of my government as evil growing up, she said. “But that’s what it is today, it’s evil.”
That view contrasted with the point of view of Laurie Danley, who brought her family to Washington, D.C., from New Jersey yesterday. “I really want to believe that the people in there listen to us,” she said. “I honestly feel like we’re gonna have an impact today.”