One of the most prominent features of Tea Party movement events has been a field of red, white, blue and yellow, emblazoned on the American and Gadsden flags and other banners of the American Revolution. Organizers of the Raleigh Tax Day Tea Party are concerned the police will won’t let that field blossom at the Raleigh Tax Day Tea Party set for Thursday at 5 p.m. on the State Capitol Grounds.
A state official told organizers that under the permit rules “signs, banners, posters and other similar displays” can’t be supported by any metal, wood or plastic posts.
Steve Swanson, a member of Triangle Conservatives Unite, asked if that included flags. After several attempts to get a straight answer, he was told yes.
“If flags are affixed to, or supported by any metal, wood or plastic posts or other supportive devices constructed of metal, wood or plastic they would not be allowed,” wrote Jennifer Norton, an administrative officer in the N.C. Department of Administration Facility Management Division.
“It seems that this rule is also about our flag – outrageous,” said Laura Long, the Triangle Conservatives Unite organizer.
The rule against metal, wood or plastic flag poles also applies to color guards. Norton said that requests for events that include color guards would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The rule does not apply, however, to small hand-held flags.
The penalty for violating the rule is revocation of the permit, which means that the police could shut the rally down, said Swanson.
Apparently, the rule was not in effect for last year’s Tea Party on the same site. It was written by Tony Jordan, facility management division director, in consultation with the State Capitol Police “to protect participates and citizens,” according to Norton.
Swanson said he believes state officials are not sure how to handle Tea Party events because they are a new phenomena. “The problem is that there have never been protests from the right,” he said. While protests from the left have been common, conservative groups usually hold rallies and prayer vigils, he said.
“I am concerned that our citizens while demonstrating at the upcoming Tax Day Tea Party, will be arrested for waving American flags or other appropriate signs while expressing their First Amendment Rights,” said Claude E. Pope Jr., Wake Republican Party chair.
The Raleigh event will feature speeches from several Congressional candidates and organizations, including NC Listen, Americans for Prosperity, the John Locke Foundation and North Carolinians for Free and Proper Elections.
The event begins at 5 p.m. In conjunction with the event on the Capitol grounds, there will be a Rolling Tea Party from 4 to 9 p.m. This consists of people riding in a set downtown route that circles the General Assembly, the Governor’s mansion, and the Capitol.