Crashing the Crashers: Tea Party Infiltrators Outmaneuvered in S.F.
April 15, 2010
Much ado has been made recently of planned attempts by left-wing activists to infiltrate the April 15 Tea Parties by posing as extremist conservatives with embarrassing signs in order to discredit the movement.
Oregon teacher Jason Levin, who got in hot water after publicizing his underhanded plans on the (already overwhelmed) Crash the Tea Party site, was the one getting most of the press coverage -- but Jason's initiative apparently inspired several freelance Tea Party Crashers around the country to infiltrate and undermine the April 15 events in their areas. (See the end of this report for bonus links to coverage of these Party-crashing attempts from coast to coast.)
This essay documents the attempts of the infiltrators to disrupt or discredit the Tea Party in San Francisco on April 15.
I first got wind that something sneaky was afoot when I noticed this listing (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/04/14/18644740.php?show_comments=1), which read:
Since the Tea Party itself started at 4pm several blocks away in Union Square, I decided to swing by Civic Center ahead of time and check out what the opposition was up to.
Turns out at first that the only volunteers for disruption duty were members of the satirical group Billionaires for Bush, who recently have renamed themselves Billionaires for Wealthcare.
(In case you're curious: Behind them is San Francisco's omnipresent resident protester-lunatic Frank Chu, who makes a lifestyle out of disrupting every protest.)
The media dutifully swarmed around and filmed the faux-billionaires.
However, no one seemed to remember out that the whole point of "Crashing the Tea Party" is that the infiltrators were supposed to look like actual Tea Partiers with actual racist/violent/extremist signs, so that when they were photographed by the media, the conservatives would be discredited. Dressing up in satirical costumes and reciting unfunny scripted jokes pre-emptively undermines the whole scheme.
But then things took a strange turn. Two more "crashers" showed up, and they really did look pretty much like honest-to-goodness Tea Partiers. Yet their signs were not particularly extreme (unless you think calling for impeachment is extreme, in which case the countless "Impeach Bush" signs and stickers displayed for the last eight years were equally extreme). I was left a little mystified, because it was becoming impossible to tell what was an act and what was real. (A comment left after the event on the listing claims that the two arrivals were actual conservatives who were crashing the crashers. Could be....)
Then a passerby (left side of the picture) saw the "protesters" and flew into a rage, yelling "Get out of here, you teabaggers!" One of the Billionaires for Wealthcare reassured him by saying that it was all an act, that there were no actual teabaggers present. So -- were the two new arrivals actual crashers, or crasher-crashers, or left-wingers posing as right-wingers posing as left-wingers planning to pose as right-wingers?
And that was basically it for the organized pre-infiltration strategy meeting. So I headed over to the real Tea Party in Union Square. As things turned out, the real crashers sidestepped this publicly announced mini-rally and acted independently.
Once at the Union Square Tea Party, I discovered that the "are-they-infiltrators-or-are-they-real?" duo were already there. I kept an eye on them for a while, but never saw them unveil any extremist signs, so if they were crashers, they weren't doing a very good job.
A hippie-ish videographer seemed to have a verbal altercation with them, but I couldn't catch the gist of the argument. I imagine it went something like, "Hey, I came here to film some racist signs, but you guys are letting me down. Are you crashers or what? Let's work together on this."
Then things started getting interesting.
The first indication of trouble was this black-clad girl who arrived and stood all alone in the rally. One side of her sign read "Oh Wait, You're Serious Aren't You?", while the other side read...
At last -- an indisputable Tea Party Crasher!
The first person (besides me) to notice something was awry was this senior gentleman who pointed her out to the police. The cop shrugged and said it was not his business to care what was on people's signs.
But the rally organizers had come prepared. Here, Tea Party headmistress Sally Zelikovsky consults with cops ahead of time about the Partiers' plans to identify crashers with pink "INFILTRATOR →" signs. The cops must have given the go-ahead, because soon enough...
...Tea Party security volunteers were on her like glue, pointing the "INFILTRATOR →" signs at her (and her cohorts) so that no media members could feign innocence and photograph the sign as an example of...something or other.
(Photo courtesy of John at The City Square.)
Which brings up a key point. Although she had a rotating selection of signs which she displayed every few minutes, the very fact that she was dressed in standard-issue anarchist-black, and the fact that the tone of her signs shifted from pure moby-isms (like "Enough of this Communaziolism Stuff Already") to giveaway mockery (like "Oh Wait, You're Serious Aren't You?"), meant that she too, just like the faux-billionaires, didn't quite get it: None of the crashers were able to stay in character long enough to pass as an actual Tea Partier.
Some of her messages, frankly, didn't make any sense, either as faux-extremism or as sarcasm. [Update: Turns out "What is this I don't even" is a reference to some Internet in-joke slang not very well-known outside of certain cliques on the Web; Whargarbl is also Internet slang, which the counter-protester must have mistakenly assumed was widely enough known to serve as effective signage.]
I scanned the periphery of the growing Tea Party rally, looking for possible agents provocateurs. By chance I caught two in the same image -- keep an eye on these guys.
The first guy's gimmick was to hold upside-down a sign with the words "This Is a Sign." This was a more authentic crashing attempt, because media photos of people unwittingly holding signs upside-down is exactly the kind of "Aren't they stupid?" derision that the Tea Party detractors are looking for.
His crashing attempt lasted about 30 seconds before the Tea Partiers were all over him. "Imposter" was a good way to identify him.
Soon he earned a dreaded pink Infiltrator sign.
Then two signs....
...And before long there was a Crasher Convergence when Anarcho-Girl and Mr. Upside-Down ended up near each other, resulting in a barrage of identifiers which no photographer could claim to miss.
Soon enough he and his entourage gave up even trying to pose as Tea Partiers, and one of his fellow crashers unveiled a rainbow-flagged Gavin Newsom campaign sign.
After a while, one of the event organizers got into an honest conversation with the guy, who conceded that he was "leaning toward socialism" politically (his words). When the real Tea Party guy asked what had motivated him to become a crasher, Mr. Upside-down said that media images of offensive signs -- such as the Hitler-mustached Obama over there (pointing) -- had incensed him so much that he thought he should confront the hatred. The Tea Partier then said -- Are you kidding? Those people aren't with us! That's the Lyndon LaRouche group -- they have nothing in common with the Tea Party. We tried to ban them, but we can't prevent anyone who wants to from showing up at a public event.
Sure enough, nearby was a LaRouche table with their trademark Obama-Hitler posters. Needless to say, Mr. Upside-Down only sees the mainstream media, otherwise he would have known that the LaRouchites show up at left-wing rallies more often than at right-wing rallies. I'm pretty sure both sides just wish Lyndon's acolytes would go away and never reappear. But the media (and various politicians) ensure that only the Tea Partiers get tarred with the LaRouchite brush.
Luckily, unlike at the left-wing rally I attended a couple weeks ago, this time around the event organizers made sure that everyone knew: THESE GUYS ARE INFILTRATORS.
(Photo courtesy of John at The City Square.)
Next up in our game of Crasher Whack-a-Mole were these two guys, whose pet political cause was ensuring that Obamacare paid for free marijuana for those with pot prescriptions in Medical Marijuana states. Before entering the rally, they paused to try to convert some cops to their side, to no avail.
One proudly showed off his sign. Once again, the crashers failed to understand the whole point of proper crashing, which is to assume the identity of the people you are opposing, in order to discredit them by association with your misbehavior. What you see here is not the way to go about it.
Once in the rally itself, for some reason they picked on the Ayn Rand Objectivists, and starting barking at them about marijuana. The Objectivists looked a little confused at the bizarre verbal assult.
The Crasher Defense Team had already become pros by this stage. In a flash, out came the pink "INFILTRATOR →" signs. Also, if you look closely, you can see my favorite anti-crasher sign: "We're NOT With Stupid →".
None of this dissuaded the determined potheads, who continued their strange marijuana/Ayn-Rand argument unabated.
But not every infiltrator got identified. Remember that guy I pointed out on the rally's edge with an "End the Federal Reserve" sign? Turns out he was an "InfoWars" Alex Jones cultist, one of those fringe-y types who dabble in paleo-conservative conspiracy theories. I spotted a few other InfoWars members at the rally, most sporting anti-Federal Reserve signs. Perhaps at this particular rally they had toned down their sometimes kooky message so much that they weren't worth "outing." Or maybe no one noticed. Or cared.
And to be honest, sprinkled here and there throughout the rally were people who might have been infiltrators -- or might not. This guy was a good example. Was he a bitter clinger? Or was he just making fun of bitter clingers? We may never know.
Later in the afternoon, the tables briefly turned when a pod of fellow black-clad anarchists showed up to support Miss Whargarblwhargarblgarbl. They surrounded one of the Crasher Identifiers, but everyone seemed to be smiling, so if it was an attempt to intimidate, it seems to have not been very successful.
However, there was someone at the rally who was not a crasher, and yet did have an offensive violence-tinged message. In other words -- he was exactly the kind of person the media loves to focus on, a Tea Partier with a violent message.
The only problem is...
...he wasn't a Tea Partier! He was, in fact, a sly anarchist standing impassively in the crowd without drawing any attention to himself. He was wearing an IWW shirt (IWW = the Wobblies, a far-left radical group with a long history). Only those (such as myself) familiar with anarchist iconography would have noticed the significance of the design on his shirt.
Here's his IWW shirt close up. Notice the black cat in the center. It originally was the secret symbol used by revolutionary Wobblies to advocate sabotage in factories. Since no modern anarchist trustafarians work in factories any more, they've adopted the black cat sabotage symbol as a general call for sabotage against modern society.
So -- after all is said and done, the only person with a violent message at the San Francisco Tea Party was...a left-wing anarchist.
[Want to comment on this article? Click here to visit the comments section at zomblog.]
(Also see Walking Tour of San Francisco Protests: Political tourism in the Age of Obama, my other report from San Francisco on April 15, including additional pictures of the Tea Party.)
More Tea Party Crashers Coverage:
The title of Michelle Malkin's post "The Crashers: They came, they saw, they failed" pretty much needs no further explanation; the epic fail of the guy in Columbus was particularly amusing.
Hot Air has a nice link-collection of various fizzled crashings all over the US.
Bob Owens has put together a brief photo-roundup of attempted crashers around the country, most of whom also failed to grasp the meaning of "infiltrate."
Urban Infidel documents the pwnage of a completely moronic New York would-be Tea Party crasher.
The Silent Majority No More blog also covered the NY rally, and about 2/3s of the way through the post captured a photo of a crasher with the most intentionally outrageous sign you're likely to ever see: Jesus "teabagging" Sarah Palin, by dunking his testicles on her face. The drawing is crude, but you can see a high-resolution version of it here.
El Marco unleashes an insanely photogenic photo essay of the Washington, DC Tea Party, including some very funny signs with pre-emptive sarcasm to completely disarm any potential crashers who may have considered showing up.
The Sharp Elbows blog has chilling video of a crasher who tried dressing up as a white supremacist, fooling exactly nobody.
Jammie Wearing Fool checks in with a video of a Sacramento crasher who went totally berserk and ran around the stage screaming "Gimme my freedom!" before mercifully getting arrested.
Ringo's Pictures documented the Tea Party in Thousand Oaks, California, and watched as the Tea Partiers managed to successfully convince a crashing LaRouchite to leave the rally -- a rare sight indeed. Also on hand was a possible crasher who may or may not have brought a rifle, but he left abruptly after a brief appearance -- increasing the likelihood that he was not an actual protester.
The City Square blog has more coverage of the San Francisco Tea Party and its handful of crashers, including the two photos of "Infiltrator" signs re-posted above.
A couple more photos of the S.F. crashers can be found on IndyBay: cut and paste the URL http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/04/15/18644845.php into your browser to view them (IndyBay blocks all incoming links except from a small list of specially approved left-wing sites; needless to say, PJM doesn't qualify).
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