Matthew Lickona 11:13 a.m., May 24
Tea Party Hosts Civic Center Press Conference to Condemn Occupy San Diego
Members of the Tea Party’s San Diego contingent gathered this afternoon at Civic Center Plaza to denounce the Occupy San Diego movement. They were led by Rhonda Deniston, an Oceanside woman who, while filming an altercation with Occupiers (warning: link includes coarse language), was struck by a protester after refusing to stop filming.
“On Nov. 8, 2011, in San Diego a woman trying to learn more about the occupy movement is attack [sic] by homeless Occupiers,” reads a description of the film that was posted on YouTube and has garnered over 100,000 views. “There were two reporters at this sight [sic] that were also threaten [sic] by occupiers, that left the area in fear.”
A few minutes after the press conference’s announced 1 p.m. start time, a woman wearing a cape and affecting a Hamptons accent appeared before the cameras, posing as a “billionaire” supporter of the Tea Party and mockingly offered praise for the group.
Deniston, accompanied by her lawyer, was first to speak. “I’m here today, along with counsel and other Tea Party leaders, to denounce the violent acts that have plagued the Occupy movement not only in this fine city but in the cities across the nation.”
“We do not object to the actual Occupy movement itself,” Deniston clarified, “we object to the behavior which the Occupiers have exhibited.”
Two mobile food vendors in the plaza, voicing similar objections to protesters’ behavior, have elected to close their businesses indefinitely rather than work among the Occupiers, who have been largely driven from the plaza and have relocated their camp to a small lawn east of the Civic Theater.
“We have so much in common. The Tea Party movement started when we said, ‘We’re fed up with bank bailouts.’ We think it’s egregious that our government picks winners and losers and chooses to bail out banks which are poor businesses,” said Brian Brady, another Tea Party supporter who tried to reach some common ground with Occupiers surrounding the media crews. He then repeated the condemnation of violence and asserted that it was the responsibility of the Occupy movement to self-police attendees of its events.
The Tea Party representatives also voiced support for splinter Occupy movements in North County, who Deniston described as “an older, more mature crowd.” These groups do not necessarily “occupy” a location, in the sense that there are no permanent encampments, but do regularly gather to picket and protest.
As film crews packed up, Occupiers began to lob questions at the Tea Partiers, who originally began to respond as if they were still addressing media; then the debate broke down with shouting by Occupiers and what several felt were evasive and vague statements by the Tea Party group.
Pictured: Deniston (left), "billionaire" Occupier (right)