My friend asked me to sum up my experiences in the 4 Tea Parties I've attended.
Here's my answer.
I've now been to 2 tea parties on the OKC capitol steps and 2 at the Norman train depot, all I think within the last year. I've always gone with an eye out for trouble; if physical violence, to witness it from a safe distance with as much detail as I could remember, and if debate, to get right in the middle of it and make sure that the truth comes out and the arguments of the foolish are overturned, but always with calm and controlled body language.
The first 3 TPs I attended didn't even really have any protesters/picketers. I heard there were some on the other side of the capitol bldg at the OKC TPs but they never came around to our side that I saw. Same at the first Norman TP. Last night in Norman there were a few MadHatters, who are the guys referred to in that Hannity quote I posted on your wall - liberals are asking fellow local libs to infiltrate and subvert the TPs and make them look foolish. Last night there were 6-8 protesters with 3 signs (one of which misspelled the word "What", rendering it "Wat", as in "Learn wat Teabaggers means". Yeah, that's very mature and not in the least bit offensive) across the street and then two guys in the midst of the TP-ers, each holding a sign.
One said "Liburty Eqality Fraternity", and the other "Drop Socal". I asked the Socal one if he meant to express that SoCal (ie, Southern California) should drop into the ocean, sparing the rest of the country, or should secede and become its own country (neither of which I'd mind all that much, BTW, though the latter is certainly preferable), but he said the word was "social". Another misspelling. Obviously these guys were MadHatters, who'd decided to infiltrate the TPers and make them look silly by repeating a French slogan with two misspellings and then another one with a misspelled "Social". I mocked them briefly: "Oh, *NOW* I get it! You guys are pretending to be Tea Partiers, and then you're making fun of us b/c you misspelled two words on *THIS* one and one on *THAT* one. So...so, CLEVER. I'm ready to join the Left now!"
Like a minute later, the guy who was speaking on the mic for the TP acknowledged the two as MadHatters, and they made no reaction, but did leave about 3 minutes later. The only hostility they received was my brief lighthearted mockery (with zero threat or implication of physical violence, needless to say; I had my baby son in my arms, for crying out loud), and the protesters across the street did get a "You guys know how silly you look?" from a frustrated TP-er a little later, which outburst was met with a rebuke ("no, no, no, come on now...") from the guy with the mic. That's it. I later made my way across the street to interact with the protesters in a very relaxed way, and after 4-5 questions and some strawmen from them (ie, "I don't agree with refusing to pay any taxes", as if the TP movement actively teaches that we should pay ZERO taxes) and my attempted corrections of those strawmen, they'd decided that I "only wanted to argue" and "didn't want to learn about their views", and they wouldn't listen as I replied, "I don't see why I can't do both". But they were done talking to me and just mostly ignored me after that. Like I said, pathetic.
Anyway, my overall impression of the TP is frustrated citizens getting together to make sometimes (but not always) slightly hyperbolic statements to get the deaf and blind gov't's attention in a peaceful manner. The media likes to paint us (yes, I'd call myself a TP-er) as if we're always right on the verge of pillaging and looting the surrounding bldgs, but I've never seen ANY violence there. None. Armed resistance to a tyrannical gov't has sometimes been implied, but not as a live option NOW. It's more like sthg that you should prepare for now in case the gov't continues on the path it's on now. You know, there's only so much trampling of Constitutional rights that people can take.
Always peaceful, always rhetorically-minded, openly scornful of all the fat cats in Washington and openly resentful that so many of their hard-earned dollars, which are taken by the gov't by force, go to support evil and stupid programs.
But no firing guns into the air. Never seen a gun there, in fact, let alone an AK-47. No chants of "a-b-c-d, shoot 0bama in the knee" or anything like that. (As the Secret Service red flag softwares go crazy.) Plenty of "let's kick those morons out of office". Plenty of signs along the lines of "Spread my work ethic, not my wealth", etc.