At Sunday’s Tea Party in Bowne Park, citizens dumped cargo overboard — with their voices, not their arms. That afternoon, conservative residents leveled their complaints against state and federal governments in the grassroots tradition of the town hall meeting.
“We just want people to come and air their feelings,” said organizer and real estate broker John Procida as the Gadsden flag with a coiled snake and the inscription, “Don’t Tread on Me,” waved behind him in the open air. Procida, with co-coordinators Marie Warhola and Ed Konecnik, nostagically envisioned “restor[ing] America to the way it was.”
To Procida, State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), and City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) that means, primarily, curbing government spending and taxes. As “the highest taxed state in the nation…[New York has] been losing people by the droves,” Padavan said. Millionaires milked for their money “stop laying golden eggs,” and move to states like Florida, where there are no inheritance or property taxes.
The answer to state budget deficits of $9.5 million “is not to tax the middle class,” Halloran said. His recommendation to the state Legislature was “stop spending and make every citizen contribute.”
Illegal immigrants, who send their untaxed earnings to family members in their native countries, aren’t citizens, and therefore complicate the issue. Anti-immigration activist Barbara Rodgers, who herself emigrated from Australia legally, wants to discourage “illegal criminals” from moving here and pitied those who have been, in their search for employment, forced into slave conditions.
Despite the conservative leanings of citizens like Rodgers, Procina and Halloran stressed that Tea Party patriots have no political allegiances. “We’re not any one political party, we’re every party. We’re everyone who ever said the government is taking too much,” Halloran said, equating the philosophy of American bureaucracy to the Communist manifesto.
Nationwide in the last year, patriots have preached fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets. They operate what their mission statement describes as “a non-partisan, nonprofit social welfare organization dedicated to furthering the common good and general welfare of the people of the United States.”
Over 50 residents and local activists had gathered at the Queens Tea Party in the Flushing Park by the time candidate for the 26th Assembly District, libertarian Republican Vince Tabone addressed the audience. He adapted the partriots’ nonpartisan creed in his favor: “One-party rule does not work,” he said. He urged attendees to vote for their local Republican candidate.
With proding from disappointed Republicans in the crowd, Halloran had admitted that the Queens GOP has been fractured in the last few years. He emphasized that it is important to engage young Republicans in local politics.
But political director of the Libertarian Party Tom Stevens said Republican unity and dominance in the state Legislature is not the answer. He reminded party members that spending had also increased under Republican control.
Advocating open trade routes, a strong military, a proactive CIA, and cutbacks in runaway budget numbers as befits his brand of pragmatism, Stevens later expressed sincere pride in his nation and the civil rights it gave him: “We are a beacon of liberty for the rest of the world and our flag is a symbol of that.”
Procida gushed with demonstrative anecdotes. He explained that Konecnik, who had once read the “Daily Worker,” joined Stevens’ party when he visited Czechoslovakia and experienced Communism for himself. A Russian immigrant told Procida, “You’re turning the country into a socialist state. Where am I going to go next?”
When the patriots disbanded, Elena, whose family is from Greece and England and who would not give her last name, walked away with renewed resolve to defend her individual freedoms. “I feel very encouraged and inspired,” she said. Her husband George was convinced that “if [Americans] just did some traveling,” as his profession required, “they would have a totally different perspective” on just how unique their civil liberties are.