The Richmond Tea Party has found an unlikely ally in its fight against a City Hall tax audit: the Occupy movement.
Despite any ideological differences, Occupy Richmond has come out in support of the local chapter of the conservative Tea Party movement, which has accused city officials of a double standard in its dealings with the two movements.
“Occupy Richmond believes in absolute free speech, including the right to criticize the government without fear of retribution," Occupy Richmond said in a statement posted Thursday on its website. "Given the duplicitous and violent manner in which the city government chose to raid our peaceful occupation, it would not surprise us if the recently announced city audit of the Richmond Tea Party were retaliation for their criticism of the mayor.”
The statement also called audits "bureaucratic harassment" and "one weapon oppressive regimes use to silence dissent."
"Not only do we call on the city to drop the audit, but we also demand the immediate refund of any money paid specifically to secure the Tea Party's free speech and assembly privileges,” the Occupiers said.
Richmond Tea Party spokeswoman Colleen Owens told FoxNews.com her group is "happy" to have the support of the Occupiers, while disagreeing that taxpayers should have to foot the bill for free speech.
“But this has never been about the money. It was about the principal," Owens said. "A public official should not be able to pick and choose which groups are charged."
The Tea Partiers accuse the city of pursuing a tax audit only after the group complained that the city had charged the Tea Party $10,000 for its protest permits but let the Occupiers protest for free.
City Hall released a statement earlier this week calling such claims "baseless" and saying the audit was part of a routine inquiry by the finance department and that the city's automatic filing system had compiled a list of 700 delinquent accounts, including that of the Richmond Tea Party.
Owens said her group has filed a Freedom of Information Act request at Richmond City Hall for figures on the audit, as well as what the city has spent so far on the Occupy protests.
“The Tea Party and Occupy movements disagree on many, many issues," Occupy Richmond said. "This should not stop all Americans from proudly standing together against government abuses. We welcome a dialogue with individuals in the Richmond Tea Party."
And such a dialogue might just happen.
“We have no problem talking to them," Owens said. “We encourage debate, as long as it’s done in a peaceful way. That’s what our country is built on.