Occupy and Tea Party Members Meet in Minnesota

April 11th there was an amazing event at the University Club in St  Paul, Minnesota. Occupy Minnesota sat down at a table and had a discussion with the Minnesota Tea Party.

Before we get into how it went, an explanation on how it transpired is in order. Members of the Minnesota Tea Party were attempting to contact the Occupy Minnesota Movement. However, since we had been booted out of the “People’s Plaza” outside of Minneapolis City Hall in December by the “liberal progressive” Minneapolis City Council, we had become difficult to locate. It must be noted here that this “progressive” City Council had passed Resolutions in support of Occupy — right before they initiated their crackdown on us.

The Tea Party folks had tried to locate a number of individuals but without any luck. Since I had been quite public in organizing the Street Medics, including having my phone number in public, they then called me with a proposal — a debate between Occupy and The Tea Party regarding  the role of government. I quickly contacted my Occupy contacts, and we came up with three people ready, willing and able to participate.

Coleen Rowley, former FBI Whistleblower and Times 2002 Person of the Year; Scott Hargarten, who had organized the anti-ALEC Rally at the State Capitol; and myself. We agreed that we would all take the standard statement that depicts any true Occupy event. None of us spoke for Occupy.  Instead we all were individuals who worked within the Occupy Movement. After all there had been no GA to solidify our position nor to give us “authority” to speak on behalf of the Occupy Movement. We made this statement before we started to speak.

As a side note, the Tea Party folks had initially advertised my participation as being a US Senate candidate. I contacted them and told them to stop. I explained that I refused to speak at any Occupy events as a Senate candidate, as a matter of principle; that electoral politics should be kept separate from the Occupy Movement as a matter of policy. I told them that their continuation of this advertising was a deal breaker for my participation. They agreed and changed their fliers and Facebook site.

We arrived at the University Club in St Paul. Very nice and very elegant it must be noted. The debate had been sponsored by the Caux Round Table, a business group aligned with The Tea Party Movement.

We met our “opponents” who were Marianne Stebbins, the Minnesota Ron Paul coordinator; Walter Hudson of North Star Tea Party Patriots; and a gentleman whose name I cannot remember who was a Republican party official.

We started off the discussion. We all agreed to have a Tea Party person speak, then an Occupy and so on. Marianne, the Ron Paul person, started first and gave a very eloquent speech.

I was chosen next. As is my style, I gave a very passionate speech about Occupy and the complete bi-partisan betrayal of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. I noted that elected officials from both parties were colluding in this, all while pretending to hate each other. I mentioned the NDAA passage and what this meant. I also pointed out how both political parties were run by elites who marginalized and demonized voices of dissent from within their ranks, and I noted that all kinds of preconceived notions about each other were being shred asunder by this meeting. I laughed and stated that, “See, we Occupy are not just a bunch of dirty, smelly hippies smelling of patcholi oil and not wanting to work, and we see that the Tea Party people here are not a bunch of crazy people.”

I noted the media attempts to marginalize us all, and pointed out the idea of what can be called the “false left-right ideals” that are in place to keep us separated and divided. In a classic case of divide and conquer. I talked about being a left wing supporter of the Ron Paul Campaign For Liberty. I also noted that the Tea Party had been co-opted by the Republican Party establishment and that Occupy was fighting to make sure we were not similarly co-opted. As I talked I noticed many heads nodding in agreement. In fact, the only one that was not was the Republican.

After I finished, I was hit with a plethora of questions and comments. Marianne, the Ron Paul person, looked at me with astonishment and stated, “Oh my God, I never hear of ‘liberals’ speak about the Constitution, and I agree with everything you just said.” I pointed out to her that my views are, in fact, very common but people who think like myself are never given space on the “progressive” media like MSNBC, which are filled with nothing but people talking Democratic Party talking points.

The next person speaking was Walter Hudson of the North Star Tea Party Patriots. He talked about the Tea Party, how it came about and confirmed how the Tea Party was indeed co-opted. He voiced his frustration at that.

Scott Hargarten spoke next.  He talked about the complete corruption going on in the government and how it was his opinion that the Occupy Movement sprang in response to that corruption and from the complete unresponsiveness of the government to the People.

The Republican Party operative spoke next. It was actually kind of funny. He tried to talk Republican Party talking points, went on about how, “You have to make a choice.  There comes a time for that” and other variations on this theme. It was obvious that they were falling on deaf ears.

Coleen Rowley spoke last, and she spoke about her experiences as an FBI Agent and Whistleblower. Then she talked about just how much the government was indeed dismantling the very basic premise of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, together with looting our Treasury and its ties to continued wars. She also pointed out the bi-partisan complicity in all of this.

After this there was a time for questions. They came fast and furious. The questions were thought-provoking and profound. We all sat around and discussed where we were in the USA today. I remember clearly one point where the Republican guy was trying to make a point. Marianne leapt to a response. She stated,  “Oh, hell, no! I am done with this lesser evil nonsense. I am so done with that!”

The entire event can be encapsulated by that event right there.

The poor old Republican was simply outgunned. It was a beautiful and fascinating event. We knew there were things that we all disagreed on. That was implicit and understood, but we also realized there were a lot of basic principles that bound us together.

The divide and conquer has just begun. Now to the meat of the matter. If we had gone in there with a “lesser evil” and “we have to support Obama and the Dems” framing, this entire conversation would have ended up like a Fox News or MSNBC shout fest. Instead it turned into quite something else. The whole time I thought of Chris Hedges and his book Death Of The Liberal Class.

It was a thing of beauty.


Michael Cavlan, an American citizen raised in a Catholic housing project in Northern Ireland, is a decades-long activist for true democracy, anti-war, Social Justice and Media Accountability. Michael is a candidate for the US Semate 2012, Minnesota Open Progressives. Read other articles by Michael.