July 11, 2009

A Rule Broken and an Opportunity Presented

Justin Katz

In the post about the Tea Party ban from the Bristol Independence Day parade, commenter David points to "Float Preparation Requirement" #8 (PDF), which reads as follows:

There will be no distributions or fundraising by any float applicant. No objects of any kind may be thrown, sprayed or otherwise distributed to spectators from any entry (i.e., candy, silly string, snappers, advertisements, etc.) Failure to comply will result in immediate removal from the parade.

I think it's objectively fair to suggest that some ambiguity exists about who counts as an "applicant" and at what distance one ceases to be distributing materials "from any entry" (i.e., float). But let's stipulate that a violation was made. #8 states that removal will be immediate. A subsequent summary states that the organizers may remove inappropriate or dangerous floats from the parade "before or during" the event.

The fact is that Float Committee Chairmain Jim Tavares was clearly aware of the distributions while they were being made. According to the Tea Party group's posting on the parade (see extended entry below), no mention of the problem was made until days later, when Tavares issued the proclamation of a lifetime ban. If those are, indeed, the circumstances, then it appears that Tavares neither followed through with the prescribed punishment nor offered the group a cease and desist warning regarding the booklets, which is curious, given his concern for the public's safety. Considering that the handout was a copy of our nation's founding documents — very relevant to a 4th of July parade, I'd say — a lighter hand would certainly have been justified.

There's a strong odor of political motivation — with a dash of small-town pettiness — to the verdict.

But look at what the various rules appear to suggest: Those associated with a float (apparently indicated by wearing the same t-shirt) cannot hand out literature, even if they walk along the edge of the road. Those who are "soliciting" must apply for licenses at $200 per "runner" or $300 per corner. It seems to me that, if the Bristol Fourth of July Committee does not recant the ban of the Tea Party from placing a float in next year's parade, the group would be perfectly free to stroll the parade route handing out Constitutions, fliers about the controversy, leaflets about the endemic corruption in Rhode Island, and so on.

In fact, I'll propose that we all set loose expectations that we'll help out in the effort in July 2010. (Odds are good that a great many of us will be unemployed, anyway.) Imagine a Tea Party protest–sized group walking alongside every float in the parade, making distributions. Who knows but that somebody among the opposition will plan a counter-protest, and the event can follow the Parade Committee's lead right into a chasm of politically motivated noise.

The Tea Party group's account, from the Google cache:

As we informed you this week, the RI Tea Party float in the Bristol Fourth of July Parade (the oldest 4th July Parade in the country) was a HUGE success, with people in the crowd showing overwhelming support and enthusiasm for our cause. Although we expected a positive reception, the response of the parade watchers was beyond our wildest imaginations. We were proud to represent the freedom loving people of Rhode Island to celebrate our country’s Independence!

Today, we received news from the Bristol Parade Committee that the RI Tea Party is to NEVER apply to appear in the Bristol Parade again. We were told unequivocally that our group was "horrible", "not to waste the stamp to send in an application in the future", and that the Committee never wanted "those people" of the RI Tea Party to participate in the parade in the first place.

Why would the Bristol Parade Committee have such a negative response to our float when the crowd was so overwhelmingly positive? We are told it is because some members of the RI Tea Party passed out US Constitutions to the crowd. Apparently passing out the US Constitution on Independence Day is an egregious violation of parade rules. This is despite the fact that other floats passed out solicitations for their businesses, which is against the Parade guidelines, and these businesses have NOT been told that they are banned from participating in the future.

This clear discrimination by the Parade Committee was also evident as the RI Tea Party was rejected for sound on the float and was told the morning of the Parade by one of the parade committee inspectors that she "never heard of someone being rejected for sound” before and they were “probably afraid you would say something politically incorrect."

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Does anyone have a copy of the handout? It has been suggested that the handout contained more than just the Constitution.

Posted by: TaxPayer at July 11, 2009 7:04 AM

The document is a staple-bound book, about 3" x 6". The cover is the famous painting of the Declaration of Independence, and on the back is contact information for the Heritage Foundation, which printed the books. The inside cover contains "About the Heritage Foundation" text.

The body of the book is a three-page foreword about the two texts to follow, which are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, including the twenty-seven amendments. The very last page (both sides) is a tear-out membership form for the Heritage Foundation.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 11, 2009 8:15 AM

Did the Tea-Baggers have a float in the
Gay-Pride parade ?

Posted by: Jay at July 11, 2009 8:40 AM

Here's the problem with the Tea Party. Where they needed to show up en masse to make their presence felt as a serious group was not at the Bristol parade (I'm fine with them being there and support their rights going forward) but in the House gallery when the budget was being debated. The fact that they did not make their presence felt at the State House and seemingly it never crossed their minds to make their presence felt in the most appropriate setting OF ALL suggests this is just the latest cutesy "flavor of the month" club that will fade away quite soon.
What would make more headlines (furthering the PR cause) and carry more meaning with the average Joe taxpayer on the street, a Bristol parade float controversy or State House security having to manhandle overflow crowds at the State House during the budget debate?
What gets the attention of the pols?
The Tea Party needs to develop an 'attitude'. Only then will they grow and become a serious movement.

Posted by: Tim at July 11, 2009 11:02 AM

It is my understanding that there are people that regularly hand out candy to the crowd while walking alongside the parade. Does this not this violate the same rules.
Also I understand Mr Tavares may have attempted to keep Buddy Cianci from exiting a vehicle to greet the crowd.

Posted by: JC at July 11, 2009 2:10 PM

Did the Tea-Baggers have a float in the
Gay-Pride parade ?

To think- if you actually had an argument, or any interest in debate in general, you'd have contributed facts, logic and reason.

Posted by: EMT at July 11, 2009 6:52 PM

Jay asked a legit question.
I was working in Toronto
Did the tea-baggers march in the Gay-Pride parade ? anyone?

And if not, why not?
Gays pay taxes, dont they?

Posted by: Ron at July 11, 2009 9:18 PM

The question would only be "legit" if the Tea Party organization were in the habit of marching in special-interest and identity-group parades. They chose one that ought to be unifying in its meaning and which has a direct historical relevance to their message and patriotic symbolism.

As it is, it's not unlike a game of word association with the obsessive.

I say: Parade.
You say: Gay pride!
I say: Taxpayer.
You say: Homosexual!

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 11, 2009 10:37 PM

Time for a "revolution" is long overdue and this proves it.

@Ron: Gays are welcome to protest the looting and destruction of this nation right along with us. Do they not work and earn money only then to have it confiscated too?

What's the problem?

Posted by: NH at July 11, 2009 11:42 PM

They chose one that ought to be unifying in its meaning and which has a direct historical relevance to their message and patriotic symbolism.

Unfortunately, it turns out they chose one in a town that's become overrun with wealthy elitist liberals looking for any excuse to silence the message of liberty-minded people while simultaneously ignoring the identical actions of Democrat politicians.

Posted by: EMT at July 12, 2009 2:35 AM

Jay and Ron,
Did the tea-baggers march in the Gay-Pride parade ? anyone?
This might be a legitimate question, if and only if this this blog was about tea-baggers. It is not, it is about the Tea Party. If you cannot distinguish the difference, then you need not frequent this blog. I suggest you go back to RISTUPOR and write about your dream dates there.

Posted by: bobc at July 12, 2009 11:24 AM

FYI folks that go to Tea Parties,are called Tea-Baggers
No insult intended

Posted by: RISTUPOR at July 12, 2009 5:55 PM

FYI folks that go to Tea Parties,are called Tea-Baggers

By foul-mouthed liberals who fear their message.

No insult intended

Of course not.

No insult intended.

Posted by: EMT at July 12, 2009 6:14 PM

Why are we all getting bent of shape over a little fun with a double entendre?
The anti-tax protesters could've avoided this if they had had enough foresight to use a different name.
If you can't take the jokes, drop the term.

Posted by: rhody at July 12, 2009 9:10 PM

Look, they broke the rules. Period. Why all the self-righteous persecution complex nonsense?

Making an argument about how they did NOT immediately throw them out of the parade, and rather waited a few days later to ban them from FUTURE parades, seems like grasping at straws for some kind of justification.

Posted by: James at July 12, 2009 10:42 PM

Just as I try to instill in my children, it's not fun if everyone is not having fun. If you need to have it explained to you, you surely wouldn't understand anyway.
Your remarks to RISTUPOR, ditto them.
That is why you are RISTUPOR! Feel free to take it anyway you want.

Posted by: bobc at July 12, 2009 10:55 PM

Were you there, did you see what happened? I can answer that, NO you did not. Otherwise you would not be so terrribly misinformed.

Posted by: bobc at July 12, 2009 10:57 PM

Bobc, has there ever been an activity on God's green earth in which everybody is having fun? If there is, I'm in, too.
No harm, no foul. And a little linguistic fun does no lasting harm (as far as kids are concerned, there's plenty of other material on political blogs of all colors strictly for adults).

Posted by: rhody at July 13, 2009 10:02 AM

Like I said, if I have to explain...

Posted by: bobc at July 13, 2009 11:04 AM

These folks also tried to solicit donations along the parade route - and unknowingly did so directly to a committee member.

They were warned by Tavares on the parade route and had their handouts confiscated with a warning. Jim let them stay in the parade though because that's just the way he is - he cares more about the parade than anyone on that float did, and would rather just let them keep going with a warning than make a mess of it while it was actually going. It was later, after he found out they did it again and after the committee found out about the fundraising asks, that the decision was made to ban them permanently.

And how the hell does anyone besides the members of the committee know, much less Marina Peterson, who he contacted besides the RITP about breaking the parade's rules? Exactly - no one aside from the committee and those who got the calls. I guarantee you it wasn't just RITP, yet they're the only ones complaining about it.

Posted by: Scoopster at July 13, 2009 12:59 PM

Tavares made the right move allowing them to march on. Kicking them out would've only given the tea team a better opportunity to play the martyrs.

Posted by: rhody at July 13, 2009 10:47 PM
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