1st Amendment Issues at a Missouri Tea Party

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Amendment One, United States Constitution

There has been a lot of talk recently about coinintelpro and agent provocateur infiltration of the Tea Party Movement and their events. Below is an account of my personal experience with my local Tea Party, as well as first hand reports from two other attendees:

I arrived early and set up on a city sidewalk at an intersection. Being a seasoned protester, I brought all the tools required for a lawful, peaceful public demonstration of my grievances with my government – Signs, literature, a camera and video device, a Pocket Constitution, and a megaphone.

Keep in mind that I was in my hometown. The city and county stole my money through force to build the sidewalk I was standing on. I was having so much fun chanting, “Taxation is theft and theft is violence” through my megaphone when one of the organizers walked up to me and told me I was not allowed to use a megaphone. I asked him by whose authority he was acting upon. The man reported that he was acting up on the City of Branson’s authority. I was as respectful as possible and told him that the City of Branson cannot restrict my right to peacefully assemble or my right to free speech.

The man left and I continued to use my megaphone. About thirty-minutes later he came back and reported that I needed permit to use the megaphone. I asked him again on whose authority he was acting. He reported that since he (as a business owner) was required to obtain a permit that I was, too. At this point, I took out my Pocket Constitution and told the man that the First Amendment was my permit. I told him that I would not stop using my megaphone.

So, the man left and I continued to use my megaphone again. The City of Branson Police Department drove by a few times while I was using my megaphone. Their presence gave me courage to shout louder, as my belief in free speech was affirmed. The Tea Party organizer walked up to me a third time and asked me to stop. I asked him why he was so adamant to silence me. He reported that the City of Branson had told him that if there was any electronic amplification used at this assembly he would not be issued another event permit.

I reported to the man that this was a serious issue that he needed to take up with the City of Branson. I told him that he should stop asking permission from his government to operate a business or act in the best interest of his business. I told him that the event he had helped organize was based on this type of freedom. He walked away with me shouting into my megaphone that freedom from tyranny comes from the individual actions that we take every day.

Renea McMasters – Branson, Missouri

Renea got a couple dozen copies of the Constitution from the YAL (Young Americans for Liberty) KU Chapter to hand out at the Branson Tea Party on Saturday April 17th. There were two parts of the rally, the street action along the Branson Strip with everyone holding up signs, and an outdoor, main-stage event with speakers and entertainment. There were also many booths setup on the parameter of the crowd. During the street action I went up and down the line of protesters handing out Campaign for Liberty tri-folds and S604 Audit the FED push cards.

One of the Tea Party Staff asked me not to hold up a sign that contained profanity. The sign says “O Shit” with the O being the Obama logo. He said that it wasn’t consistent with the other signs at the protest and that I could go across the street by the We Are Change protesters because they “aren’t with us.” I opted to trade it out for a large Gadsden flag and continued to go down the line of protesters handing out literature. I did not mention to the man that I was on a public sidewalk where my First Amendment right to hold any sign was protected by the United States Constitution.

After the street action everyone headed to a private venue for the main stage event. We opted not to take the megaphone to the main stage event for fear that it would interfere with the free speech of the speakers on stage.

I went around to some of the booths picking up an Allen Icet for State Auditor t-shirt and Purgason for US Senate sticker. Then I asked Renea if I could hand out the Constitutions that she brought. She said I could so I started carrying them around in my hand. Since the constitutions had the Young American for Liberty website YALiberty.org on them I was looking for young people to hand them out to. There weren’t a lot of young people in the crowd other than a few small children. While I was walking around a lady came up to me and asked if she could have one, and I said sure and gave it to her. Then, an older couple came up and asked if I was handing out Constitutions and asked if they could have one so I gave them each one. I continued around the outside of the crowd looking for young people, high school or college aged, but didn’t see any.

Then a lady with a Tea Party Staff t-shirt came up to me and asked me what I was handing out. I told her it was the constitution. She saw my sticker and asked if I was with the Purgason for US Senate booth. She said that only people who had a booth were allowed to hand out things because the Tea Party wanted to review what information was being disseminated. I told her that I did not have a booth. She said there was a formal process with paperwork for having a booth and handing out information at the tea party. She said there was already a booth handing out constitutions, and anyone who wanted one could go to that booth. I told her if she wanted to kick me out she could do that and that it would make for a great story in the newspaper tomorrow “Man kicked out of Tea Party for handing out the Constitution.” I told her I think this is going to be a great story for the newspaper and that she should kick me out because I’m not going to stop handing out constitutions.

Then, I went over to Renea and told her what was going on. The lady came over to where Renea was and Renea asked her if we weren’t allowed to hand out constitutions and she told Renea that we couldn’t hand out anything. Renea asked if she could give her a DVD of Freedom to Fascism and insisted that she take it. When she told us again that we couldn’t hand out anything I yelled, “This lady doesn’t want us to hand out the constitution!” I yelled loud enough to interrupt the speaker that was on stage and part of the crowd turned to see what was going on including the We Are Change cameraman. Here is the footage the We Are Change Branson cameraman obtained:

After a couple seconds, several people rushed over to me to get a constitution. One guy yelled “I’ll take a constitution, just shut up.” All the constitutions I had were gone in less than half a minute with some going to young kids whose parents had sent them over get one.

A couple minutes later the cops came over and talked to us. The Branson Police were very polite. They said they just wanted to make sure that we weren’t there to disrupt the tea party and they were sympathetic to the tea party organizers harassing us. I told them that we want to make sure that the speakers on stage had a chance to be heard so that they could exercise their free speech. Renea told them that we were here to be respectful and to celebrate liberty. They also asked us if we were the ones using the megaphone earlier, during the street action, and said that they were glad that we were able to use the megaphone and exercise our free speech.

Michael Mikkelsen – Kansas City, Missouri

While attending the Branson Tea Party on April 17, I was thinking how great it was to see so many people joined in the spirit of liberty. Unfortunately, this spirit was countered by what seemed to me to be a curious concern for control. The first tip off was the fact that the two guys who were taking a survey for purely academic purposes told us, my friends and me, that they were not allowed into the event. Then there was the fact that, although the organizers of the Branson Tea Party were handing out pocket size copies of the U. S. constitution, my friends were not allowed to give out the pocket constitutions that they had brought with them to hand out. Why would this be? I found this exclusionary attitude to be in conflict with the spirit of liberty and I am now suspect of the motives behind this behavior.

Dan McMasters – Branson, Missouri

I have seen other accounts of the First Amendment becoming an issue at Tea Parties.

I am not saying that this is an agenda being pushed by the Tea Party Movement. I am saying, however, that there are people in the movement who have an agenda of their own. Perhaps it is an agenda that promotes liberty at the expense of denying others their God given rights.