March 2, 2009
L.A. Tea Party - Anatomy of a Social Media Protest

The Nationwide Chicago Tea Party happened Friday, Feb. 27th, and the citizens of the greater L.A. area participated in the protest at the Santa Monica Pier. Because we had only a few days to throw this thing together, I wanted to provide a play-by-play of events leading up the the L.A. Tea Party to demonstrate the power of the social web.

As a member of the #tcot community, I was keenly aware of the Tea Party groundswell caused by Rick Santelli’s comments on CNBC.

Many Americans are as frustrated as Rick about the massive government spending that’s occurring and quite a few of them are in my tweet stream. Of course, one of my *real* friends, Jared Still (@jaredstill), formerly of L.A., now in Texas, and some other TCOT members were the first ones to tweet about Rick’s Tea Party challenge. Could these tweets be the beginning of a groundswell? Here are first mentions of the Tea Party on twitter:

Shortly after these first few tweets, Rick’s Chicago Tea Party protest idea spread throughout conservative groups on Twitter like TCOT (#tcot), Smart Girl Politics (#sgp), and the DontGo Movement (#dontgo). Conservative author, blogger and hottie harpy, Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) helped get the word out using her popular conservative blog. Within hours, Rick’s rant had been tweeted and retweeted thousands of times. The CNBC video clip on had over 1.2 million views.

Michael Patrick Leahy (@michealpleahy), founder of #TCOT (Top Conservatives on Twitter), who lives in my adopted hometown of Franklin, TN, and I spoke with the other 12 organizers (including Amy Kremer, Eric Odom, Jenny Beth Martin, and J.P. Freire) during the first national conference call about the Tea Party on Feb 20th. We decided that we’d slate our first events for Feb 27th and we’d use social media as the means for promoting them. I was to take on the L.A. Tea Party event as the primary organizer. I called Tony Katz and told him I was organizing the event for TCOT and asked him if he’d MC the event, and fortunately for everyone involved, Tony agreed. Tony hosts the weekly TCOT radio show, so he was a natural choice. 

Steve Kruiser - Don't Tax Me, Bro!

The event planning for L.A. didn’t formally start until Monday, leaving 4 short days to pull it all together. Anyone who’s ever tried to organize an event that’s coordinated nationally knows this isn’t much time. Ashley Ingram (@ashleyingram86) and Justin Smith (@jsmithad41) were our workhorses who handled most of the onsite logistical work needed for the event, including getting permits, making many phone calls and acquiring props. Gary Aminoff (@aminoff) was instrumental in helping us secure additional speakers.

Tony Katz, co-founder of AdGrinder, and Natalie Burkholder (@theburk) of The Freedom Factory below.

Tony Katz

There’s no way we could’ve pulled this off in such a short period of time without Twitter and Facebook sans any major media announcements prior to the event. Within the first 12 hours of creating the TCOT Los Angeles Facebook group and its related LA Tea Party event we had 30 RSVP’s. Ultimately, the event was estimated to have over 400 people in attendance.

Joe Said (@joesaid) of TechZulu.

Our speakers were Rick Williams, Al Sonja Schmidt, Victoria Jackson, and Chris Burgard and Tony Katz.

Victoria Jackson, of SNL fame, participated at her first rally as a speaker.

Al Sonja Schmidt, is a conservative author. IMO, she had the best joke of the day.

We had independents, conservatives, libertarians and liberals at the event. There were bloggers and about a dozen media outlets in attendance, including one of my favorite publications, Investor’s Business Daily, which plugged me and fellow TCOT member, Michelle Malkin. I’m returning the favor to my friends at IBD by linking to their excellent Nationwide Tea Party piece. AV Flox (@avflox) of OMG OMG OMFG and Laurie Percival (@lauriepercival) of lalawag, pictured below.

I snapped this one of the crowd while Tony was introducing the crowd to Ashley, Justin and me.

The climax of the morning was the symbolic dumping of tea in the drink. The tea was then fished out, placed in a bag, and sent to Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s current governor. Mr. Schwarzenneger, consider yourself teabagged! Here’s a group photo of the event organizers and speakers - note Ashley holding the bag o’ tea that will be sent to Arnie.

In the photo to the right: Victoria Jackson down in front. Her reading of the definition of socialism was a nice touch. Also pictured, Al Sonja Schmidt (speaker, she’s hilarious), Stephen Kruiser (radio show host, TCOT member), Tony Katz (eventMC, TCOT member), Gary Aminoff (instrumental in getting the word out locally, SVF GOP Pres., TCOT Member), Ashley Ingram (organizer, TCOT member), Justin Smith (organizer, TCOT member), Rick Williams (CEO of Break the Matrix, speaker), Chris Burgard (speaker, actor, filmmaker), Brooks Bayne (TCOT member and TCOT PSL for the event, organizer, CEO of The Graph).

At The Graph, my new company,
we’re working on social web analytics. Because we’re in this space and
I participate so heavily on Twitter, I’ve had a front row seat witnessing how social media tools have changed the way we approach political activism. I’ve been on Twitter for over two years and I’ve been engaging people who are of a different stripe long before the conservatives showed up en masse.

I’m a long-time independent conservative activist. Prior to moving to California, I participated in and helped organize the Tennessee Tax Revolt. This revolt blocked the passage of a state income tax twice by mass convergence of citizens on the state capitol. As an organizer of protests before the advent of social media tools, having been on Twitter prior to and during our last election, and now, having organized and participated in the Nationwide Tea Party, it’s obvious to me where political activists should be focusing much of their time. Most political activists and campaigns are starting to get it, and the Obama campaign certainly did. But some don’t get it…either way, the social web is now at the center of politics.

I created a flickr photo set containing all the photos (don’t worry Laurie, I deleted that one) I snapped at the event here: L.A. Tea Party on flickr

Thank you to everyone who came out and made this event a great success!

I’m Brooks Bayne, follow me: @brooksbayne

It was ironic that, as we were leaving the event, we encountered a “homelesser” about to get tazed (actually, that’s the officer’s sidearm pointed in my direction) in light of our borrowing of the "Don’t Taze Me, Bro!" meme. Apparently, this crazy pulled a knife on a local pier fisherman. Don’t get me started on Santa Monica’s silly love affair with the nation’s homelessers. Unfortunately, I did *not* get the homelesser’s twitter handle, but from the look of him in the pic, he looks more like a MySpacer anyway.

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