Ain't No Party Like a Scranton Tea Party!

By Kevin Zwick
Staff Writer

Parking in downtown Scranton is terrible. I drove around for a half-hour trying to find a spot to park. I drove past the ‘Tea Party’ about three or four times before I found a spot. Fifty cents for an hour and fifteen minutes on the meter is not bad at all considering it costs $23 for an hour and a half in Philadelphia. I think the Founding Fathers would be outraged.

I arrived at the protest at about 12:35pm on Tax Day and instantly noticed signs which read “Obamanomics: Trickle-Up Poverty” and “Limited Government or No Government.”  Interesting, I thought. Obama’s economic plan defies gravity as it “Trickles-Up.” The no government thing could be fun, until other countries realize we have no military and we suddenly become a Province of Canada or a very large Aztlán.

The speaker at the time was talking about how the government was going to blacklist returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans because Right-Wing Radical groups (Neo-Nazis, KKK, etc) are reportedly recruiting returning soldiers because they have skills with weapons.  This really got the mob going. So I whipped out my video/camera device and began to snap pictures and take short video footage of the protest.

I was standing across the street in front of the Federal Courthouse with other observers: I say observers because they had no reaction to what was spewing from the speaker’s mouth. They weren’t journalists, unless they did things by memorization, which is a horrible way of trying to remember the exact words of a person’s speech. I decided to get right into the heart of things, so I went into the crowd, video camera recording. I needed the video camera function more for the audio function than the actual video since I forgot to bring my speech recorder. “…This day will be remembered…like Lexington and Concord…”

I was amazed at how close people let me get to them while I was sticking my video camera in their faces.   I prefer to be treated as invisible when I am covering rallies and protests, because it gives you the full access. And if you carry a camera with a pad and pen, people think you are a real reporter.

“Hey there, are you a reporter?” asked a protester. “I mean, are you doing it for yourself or do you work for someone?”

“Well, not exactly,” I responded. “I work for the government. They told me to come down and try to get people’s names and descriptions, you know, so they can keep track of them.

His eyes widened and mouth dropped open, as he took a step back. “God no…I knew they’d be pulling this kind of stuff,” he said, as he looked over his shoulder and all around him to see if anyone had heard.

I had him going for a while, but I don’t why he kept talking to me if he thought I was a G-Man. So I came clean with him and told him I was just pulling his leg.

“Gawd darnit. So do you work for the Times?” he asked.

“No,” I replied. “I am doing this for a University Newspaper.”

“Oh well, can you take a picture of my sign I made?”

“Sure”

“It’s funny. It says ‘Obama now has WMDs: Waste and Massive Debt.’ Now what do you think of that?”

Wow, I wonder how long it took him to think of that, I thought. So I took the picture, but it was blurry and unusable. I moved around, this time getting more toward the front of the crowd. Eventually, I was able to get behind the speaker, possibly because I had the “press look.” This time I had a good vantage point to look at the crowd. It looked twice as big as it was when I arrived, and now they were calling the local Congressmen and Senators’ offices. Frank Scavo, School Board Director of Old Forge, was the emcee for the event.

“Can I speak to Senator Specter?” he asked the secretary of Specter’s office, as the crowd starting booing. He was holding his cell phone up to the microphone so the crowd can hear. There was an answer on the other line, most likely it wasn’t Senator Specter.

“We have a message for Mr. Specter,” he said.

“NO NEW TAXES,” shouted the crowd, in a jumbled and disorderly way which was incomprehensible, but they knew what they said.

Frank Scavo got back on the microphone and propelled into a diatribe about other members of Congress, such as Congressman Barney Frank [Ma-4th] and Senator Chris Dodd [D-Conn], two Democratic members of Congress who are receiving much flack for the bailouts and financial disaster. The protesters jeered just about anyone mentioned by a speaker.  At one point, a new speaker came up and made a remark about President Lincoln.

“Hey, who would vote for Lincoln?” he said.  But no one responded.

“Reagan!” shouted a protester, and the mob went wild.

I stood dumbfounded for a moment. Not one person cheered when someone asked about Lincoln. Not one.  Maybe they were mistaken the name for someone else with the same name, I hope.

As I walked around, people had the anti-socialism/communism shirts and sign, with President Obama likenesses, but not one sign had a picture of President Bush. The first bank bailout was issued last year by President Bush on the advice of Former Goldman Sachs executive turned Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. This was the first move toward socialism. But there was not one sign, not one mention of the name Bush or Paulson. For all the claims that the “Tea Party” was non-partisan, it reeked of Right-Wing influence.

But what tipped the scale for me was when people began shouting about term limits for politicians, as not to create political dynasties and corruption. It was getting interesting because it seemed to be of unanimous interest, which wasn’t brought on by the emcee, Frank Scavo.

When Frank Scavo got to the microphone, it became apparent of the mob’s hypocrisy. Scavo is an 8 year member of the Old Forge School Board.  When the crowd was at its maxim of chanting about term limits, Scavo stepped in.

“Now, I am a politician. I have been on the School Board in Old Forge for 8 years. If you vote for me this year, I promise I will quit after my 12th year on school board,” he said.

The mob cheered him on.

This is ridiculous, I thought. I walked around the corner to get a cup of coffee. I thought to myself, this is why the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College: They couldn’t trust the people. The mob is too easily swayed. They were the Booboisie as early-20th century satirist H.L. Mencken called them.

For hours, they condemned politicians and demanded term limits, but they easily change course and cheer who they condemn. On my way back to my car, I walked by the protest again.

I got in my car and drove past the crowd again.  “The yokels are hypocrites, like the politicians they condemn!”

The mob cheered.

Lackawanna County residents gathered in front of the Federal Courthouse to express their displeasure with the government. Photo Credit: Kevin Zwick
This couple protests "Obamanomics: Trickle Up Proverty." Photo Credit: Kevin Zwick