Tea Party: At The Race Track With George Washington

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Photos by Craig Hlavaty
No treading allowed
On Saturday afternoon I visited the North Houston Tea Party's "I Will Vote" rally, held at the Sam Houston Race Park. This was my second Tea Party rally in six months, following on the heels of the one in April at Discovery Green where my photographer was kicked out, and where I decided to bring my own libertarian sign in order to blend in.

The focus of this event was to get the word out to vote ahead of the November 2 mid-term elections, and to rally even more folks behind the Tea Party cause, which has been undergoing changes in tone this year. Battling accusations of racism and bigotry have been a big hurdle.

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Tea party fever
Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi's recent piece on the group's funding and ideology was an interesting read, if not just a tad rote at this point in the game. But some of the things uncovered in the article are hard to ignore. Like the money trails and how the GOP has been co-opting the movement for their own gain.

It's always fun wearing Houston Press credentials to any strain of conservative event. One older party-goer told the rest of his table not to trust me since I was from such a liberal paper. After I gave him a funny look he backed down and related me a story of how he once bought ad space with us and only got one new customer out of the deal. He offers concealed handgun license classes, and when I let him know I was in the process of getting my own CHL, he was even more baffled.

This party was more subdued than the April shindig downtown, which was littered with the stray protesters, screaming, and way more merch tables. The one in April was the Vans Warped Tour compared to the one at the horse track on Saturday. We assume the surroundings were a little more welcoming than a park downtown in Houston on a weekday, which insured all manner of Inner Loop kook and commie to show up and scream at the partygoers before hitting happy hour. It's hard to incite that crowd to come up north and get their protest on, especially before noon on a Saturday.

The event was emceed by radio host Joe "Pags" Pagliarulo, and speakers included authors Brigitte Gabriel and Kevin Jackson. The latter is the author of The Big Black Lie, and one of the most prominent conservative African-American pundits in the Tea Party world. Funny enough, Pags claimed none of the media would mention Jackson's appearance at the event, or his fiery speech on how Barack Obama has been mobilizing impressionable youth.

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Pretty big "could"
Also on the bill Saturday was Second Amendment crusader Suzanna Hopp, state rep Debbie Riddle, scene luminary Catherine Engelbrecht, socialist watchdog Bernard Navarro, and popular AM 740 KTRH host Michael Berry. Berry came in late after a function across town and was easily the most popular speaker of the day.

Oh, and George Washington was there too.

Actor Mark Collins has been playing Washington for the better part of the last decade, appearing at an all manner of functions in addition to being a pastor. He was in National Treasure 2 and a few specials for the History Channel, including The Revolution. He's a tall, imposing guy with shock-white hair, all real, and a measured speaking tone. Exactly how you would want the father of our country to come across. Of course I got a picture with him.

For a slideshow of the event, click here.

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