Published April 11, 2009
Want to throw a Tea Party? You're not alone.
Activists are brewing more than 500 rallies nationwide to protest "runaway government spending" as part of the Tax Day Tea Party movement. Crowds of up to 10,000 -- many of whom are believed to be participating in political protest for the first time -- are expected at major events from Atlanta to San Antonio to Sacramento on Wednesday.
Smaller movements are scheduled in all 50 states. Organizers say up to 20,000 could flood City Hall Park in New York City, where Newt Gingrich is scheduled to speak.
As an inherently decentralized movement, there's no "right" or "wrong" way to hold a Tea Party protest. But there are a few tricks to maximize the effect of your message, organizers tell FOXNews.com.
"I recommend getting some kind of organizing committee together," said Amy Kremer, national event coordinator for TaxDayTeaParty.com. "You definitely can't do it alone."
Using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Kremer suggested would-be Tea Party organizers contact friends, relatives and colleagues to spread the word while simultaneously setting up a Web site for the cause. Once that happens, "people start coming out of the woodwork to volunteer," said Kremer, adding that local radio stations and newspapers are also a good way to disseminate event details.
Another key part of the process is to determine a central location and to acquire a permit and insurance for your protest, if applicable. Depending on the municipality, permits can be free or cost up to a few thousand dollars, Kremer said.
The next consideration should be your message, according to John O'Hara, membership manager for the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank promoting limited government.
"You want to think about an agenda and your speakers, as well as logistics," O'Hara said. "Are you going to have a stage and [public address] system?"
O'Hara also suggested drafting a press release addressing the "five W's" and to begin making signs at least 24 hours in advance of the event. As far as messages are concerned, O'Hara said the possibilities are endless.
"The thing about this movement is that nobody owns this," O'Hara said. "It's a nonpartisan thing, and it's not about any particular politician. It's about the government being by, and for the people."
But with so many events already underway, syndicated columnist and FOX News contributor Michelle Malkin, who has blogged extensively on tea parties, warned against duplicating efforts. Like O'Hara, Malkin stressed the need for a "very specific focus" when shaping your agenda.
"For these things to be truly effective, they have to be more than standing around at City Hall and people holding up a sign," Malkin told FOXNews.com. "There has to be some kind of action, like voter registration drives and petitions."
Malkin, who has not decided which protest to attend but says she'll probably "end up in Denver," also warned against potential saboteurs.
"These tea parties have become a real target and a magnet for folks on the other side who defend all this big spending," said Malkin, adding that protest participants need to be "happy warriors."
Malkin said she's heard reports that groups like ACORN may send in "ringers" to disrupt the anti-tax demonstrations.
Justin Higgins, an organizer for a protest in Columbus, Ohio, where up to 1,500 people are expected, said he'll be watching for dissenters, too.
"We're worried about people involved with ACORN doing 'gatebusting,' or trying to get in front of the TV cameras," Higgins told FOXNews.com. "We're going to have people looking out for that."
Charles Jackson, ACORN's national communications director, told FOXNews.com that the organization will actually be holding rallies of its own.
"ACORN is going to be engaged in a series of rallies across the country on April 15th in support of the priorities outlined in President Obama's first budget -- investments in education, health care, and getting Americans back to work," Jackson wrote in a statement. "This is the first we've heard of these 'tea parties' and, frankly, a gripe-fest by a bunch of conservatives who's preferred economic policies got us in this mess in the first place is of no interest to us."
In an earlier statement, Jackson wrote: "Every day the conservative movement concocts a new fantasy about ACORN. We are anticipating reports in conservative media tomorrow fingering ACORN's 500,000 member families as the principle cause of global climate change."
Meanwhile, Higgins, a freshman at Ohio State University, said he'll like to see the protest at the Ohio Statehouse highlight local issues like Ohio's budget crisis.
"These tea parties are all about principles," Higgins said. "I'm tired of playing party politics and I want people to start caring about the issues. I would to see some real debate and dialogue."
Kremer also mentioned the possibility of dissenting voices, but stressed the need for tolerance on all sides.
"This is a movement that's not only about Republicans and Democrats, it's American taxpayers," she said. "We don't want this to turn into an anti-Obama thing or want people to bring signs to cause tension. We're fed up with the senseless spending, and that's what this is about."
Kremer said she's astounded by the level of interest from the passionate activists who have already signed up.
"It's galvanized this country and people just want to be a part of it," Kremer said. "Most of these people have never been activists before in their life. They've never protested or done anything like this, but everyone is mad as hell about the out of control spending and the slippery slope to socialism we're on. This Tea Party movement has really given them a chance to have their voices heard."