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Portland’s living room—a.k.a. Pioneer Courthouse Square—hosted two very different guests last weekend less than 24 hours apart.
On a rainy Friday evening, April 15, the Oregon tea party held court as part of its now-annual tax day protest. The following day at noon under better weather conditions, a collection of Oregon unions led by Portland Jobs With Justice occupied the square for their “Jobs, Not Cuts” rally.
As a divided Congress battles over where to spend and what to cut, WW attended both rallies to put Oregon’s pro-spending unions and slash-happy tea party to the test. What scares, delights and concerns these two groups? What do they think about the budget cuts? Who had a bigger turnout? Who spent more? And what do they agree on?
Sights and Sounds from the Tea Party Rally
Video courtesy Evan Sernoffsky
CROWD SIZE: Tea party: About 300 Unions: About 2,500
DEMOGRAPHICS: Tea party: Mostly baby-boomers, mixed gender, all white (one African-American in anti-tea party protest.
Does that count?). Unions: Mixed-age, mixed gender, mixed ethnicity (mostly white, but hey, it’s Oregon).
MUSIC: Tea party: Cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” Unions: “Solidarity Forever,” and other union favorites.
BIGGEST CELEBRITY: Tea party: Conservative talk-radio host Victoria Taft. Unions: Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, a key figure in the protests against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his attempts to strip public-sector workers of the right to collectively bargain.
HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Tea party: Ronald Reagan and Thomas Jefferson. Unions: Mitchell quoted German anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller on the importance of speaking out during oppressive regimes.
COSTUMES: Tea party: No real costumes, but lots of red, white and blue. One man sported an anti-Che Guevara shirt, (think a no-smoking sign with Che instead of a cigarette). Unions: Alliance for Democracy dressed like Supreme Court justices with corporate logos adorning their robes to protest pro-corporate judicial decisions.
CHANTS: Tea party:“USA! USA! USA!” Unions: “Banks got bailed out! People got sold out!”
SIGNS: Tea party: “Redistribute My Work Ethic, Not My Wealth.” Unions: “Stop the War on the Working People.”
FUNNIEST DONALD TRUMP SIGN: Tea party: “Obama…You’re Fired!!!! -Trump” Unions: “Chop From the Top,” with an image of Trump.
HOW ONE DEMONSTRATOR WOULD FIX THE DEFICIT: Tea party: “We need to stop spending. As an example, we should cut the Environmental Protection Agency.”—Greg Sterkson Unions: “We have to cut things that are unnecessary; you know, not spend $2,000 for a wrench, things like that.” –Karen Dellelo
HOW ONE DEMONSTRATOR FINISHES THIS SENTENCE: “I THINK PRESIDENT OBAMA IS A...” Tea party: “…hardcore Marxist, but that’s just my personal opinion.”—Ty Raddue. Unions: “…sadly, a sellout. He is more practical than principled.”—Don Baham.