San Antonio Tea Party History
The San Antonio Tea Party was born with a rally at Alamo Plaza, home of the historic Alamo, on February 27, 2009. Joni Schmidt, a resident of nearby Boerne TX, conceived of the idea and organized (via posts to Facebook) a protest at which 25 to 30 people attended.
After that rally, discussions continued via email and Facebook. On March 17, Joni decided to focus on organizing a group in Boerne and Robin Juhl took over the San Antonio planning. Six of those original protesters met again on March 21 at the Lighthouse Café’s patio, which marked the beginning of the Executive Committee of the San Antonio Tea Party. The group wondered how they could grow the modest group of 25-30 to perhaps several hundred at a future event—perhaps Tax Day on April 15? One of the attendees, Eric Adam, informed the group he was working on a video that might bring some publicity to the group. Realizing not everyone used or was willing to sign up for Facebook, and the movement needed a publicly available website, Robin created TheyThinkYouAreStupid.com and posted the notes from the meeting there. From that point, things began to happen … almost too quickly!
On Thursday, March 26, Eric posted his now-famous video on the 9/12 Project website. It gained immediate notoriety and the next day, Glenn Beck aired the video on his Fox News Channel show.
On March 29, the first general meeting of San Antonio Tea Party Patriots took place in the patio and parking lot of The Magic Time Machine restaurant. Since news of the first rally and the immediate sensation from publicity from Glenn Beck, many people had scoured the Internet looking for a way to meet and make a difference. This meeting seemed to fit that bill, for on that Sunday afternoon, a diverse group of approximately 150 showed up. Members of the newly-formed Executive Committee (about 14 people) also met with two folks from the Texas 9/12 project who also attended the meeting.
Tax Day 2009
Meanwhile, momentum from grassroots groups around the country was growing to make Tax Day a day of political demonstrations. Government spending has ballooned and talk in Washington indicated more spending was on the way. Newspaper and television coverage, and particularly website posts and email exchanges, were focusing attention on what might be a significant political movement. This momentum for a local rally in San Antonio was growing as well, but the biggest challenge would be securing a good venue and turnout for such an event. Alamo Plaza, rich in historical and symbolic significance, would be ideal, but with the approaching annual Fiesta events long scheduled, the Fiesta Commission would first have to agree to share that prize venue. Fortunately, the Fiesta Commission agreed to allow use of the Plaza, and immediately thereafter, Glenn Beck agreed to do his national show from the Plaza and appear briefly at the Tea Party rally.
Planning became feverish at this point to ensure two consecutive and coordinated, yet independent, events occurred without a hitch on the afternoon of April 15. To kickoff the Tax Day events, Glenn Beck was gracious to assist the San Antonio Tea Party by agreeing to do a fund-raising luncheon. Representatives from Premiere Speakers Bureau, which represents Glenn, assisted the SATP in organizing, and the SATP in turn paid their expenses.
The next event was the filming and live-airing on Fox News Channel of the Glenn Beck Show between 4:00 to 5:00 PM. Glenn and his crew broadcast the show live from Alamo Plaza, with the Alamo itself as a backdrop. The show featured Ted Nugent and others, and would cut away periodically to pick up live feeds from other Tea Party rallies around the nation. For the record and despite rumors to the contrary, Fox provided the SATP nothing (other than great publicity) in this event. In fact, they were adamant in not allowing the SATP to use their resources, including their stage, and when the show was done, they packed up their equipment and left. The SATP did, however, allow Fox to use our stage and our jumbotrons. San Antonio Express-News reported 5000 attended the filming. Ironically, Fox billed the event the Tax Day Tea Party, but the official Tea Party rally was yet to come.
The third event of the day—and the actual Tea Party—kicked off at 6:00 PM with a prayer and welcome by KSLR (AM 630) radio talk show host Adam McManus. The gathered crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Gavin Carmona and Seth Alfaro, spiritedly joined Jean French in singing “God Bless America,” and listened intently as Julia Hayden of the SATP read “The Alamo: A Line in the Sand.” Next Glenn Beck returned to the stage and delivered some opening remarks, followed by Ted Nugent who led the crowd in singing the “National Anthem.” Other speakers, including Katherine Moreno, Edward Jaax, Phil Pepin, and Terri Hall, also addressed the crowd on various topics: the strength of America built upon legal immigration, the duty of citizenship, economic freedom, and the selling out of Texas. Doug Phillips, President of The Vision Forum, finally spoke on “Freedom at Risk.” Grammy-winning recording artist Steve Vaus closed out the evening at 8:15 PM with his song “We Must Take America Back.”
Estimates of those attending varied greatly: although the official count was placed at 5000, police monitoring the crowds privately told organizers the number appeared closer to 16,000.
Independence Day 2009
With the success of the Tax Day rally, the Board wanted to build on that success and immediately began planning an Independence Day event. Rio Cibolo Ranch in neighboring Marion was selected as the location. The success of the event was mixed. On the one hand, the crowd of 5,000 had a truly memorable experience, with food, entertainment, outstanding speakers (including Governor Rick Perry, “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, former Navy SEAL and author Marcus Luttrell, and others), and fireworks capping the day. Governor Perry was proud to be the first to sign the SATP’s “Contract with the Constitution.” On the other hand, the event was much more costly than anticipated and the SATP received less in donations than it had hoped. Thus it struggled for several months to pay the expense incurred by the event.
During the following months several smaller protests were organized (one specifically against Cap & Trade in front of the SA Federal Building) and regular monthly town hall-style meetings at The Magic Time Machine continued. This was a time that the local organization struggled to define its mission and find its voice among often-competing interests. Even on the Board of Directors, now numbering four, there was disagreement on a vision of what the SATP should be, how it should conduct business, and a united effort on the way forward. Amid such controversy, and to its credit, the Board members agreed to step aside once an independent and unaffiliated group of conservative leaders screened and recommended a new Board to oversee the organization.
With a new Board in place and a challenging mid-term election year ahead, two primary emphases faced the San Antonio Tea Party in 2010.
First was rebuilding the organization and regaining the momentum that was lost toward the end of the previous year. This required reconnecting with patriots who felt the organization was losing relevancy and reestablishing our visibility in the community. We revitalized communication through enhanced relations with the media, as well as patriots contributing articles and op-eds to the San Antonio Express-News and national media. A revamped website extended our reach well beyond Bexar County, with our posts being picked up and shared on other websites. A new relationship with Clear Channel Communications and its radio station 92.5 (KRPT) The Patriot allowed us to broadcast a two-hour Saturday morning talk show “Boiling Point.” A speakers’ bureau was established to educate and advocate on issues within our mission scope, and we began to share through street banners our conservative message in areas historically untouched by causes such as ours. General meetings were moved to the hospitable Old West setting of the Pedrotti Ranch.
Several unique initiatives began to catch the public’s attention and took on lives of their own. First was the formation of the Juan Seguin Society, an innovative outreach to Hispanics who share many of our values and have much to gain if the principles we mutually advocate are enacted in society. Another was a Balanced Budget Amendment initiative to collect signatures across the Nation in support of a Constitutional amendment. The latter effort spread to other Tea Parties and related organizations, and gained the support in Texas of Congressman Lamar Smith (who promised to introduce legislation toward such an amendment in January 2011), Congressman Henry Cuellar, and Senator John Cornyn.
Throughout Bexar County and beyond, our recognition grew through our highly visible presence at a number of gun shows, the state Republican convention (the Democrats said no, thanks), major exhibits in New Orleans and at the Hunters Classic, and as we became integrated into the Common Sense Texans network and a leader among other Texas Tea Party, 9-12, and conservative issue groups.
Realizing nothing happens without money, we enhanced our fund-raising efforts. Specific events included celebrating the success of the SATP’s first birthday at a combination fund-raising luncheon and town hall celebration at Sunset Station on February 21, 2010. The event was a success, given the enthusiastic turnout, the large number of political candidates in the upcoming Texas primary election who showed up and spoke, and even the protesters who were bused in to disrupt the event! Another event was a Tax Day rally at MacArthur Park on April 15, which despite heavy rain, brought out over 300 people to protest higher taxes. A September fund-raising dinner gave a final boost toward the elections and featured as host the local talk radio personality Adam McManus and keynote speaker Rick Green of WallBuilders.
The second major emphasis of 2010 was the preparation for the midterm elections in November. Bookend efforts on this front included a voter registration rally in Olmos Basin Park in early June and a Get Out the Vote Rally the weekend before Election Day. Through the summer and the fall, patriots worked through a growing network of Neighborhood Groups to educate citizens on those mission-related issues. On their own, patriots volunteered on campaigns of those who supported Tea Party ideals and positions. Additionally, we hosted several primary and general election forums during which candidates introduced themselves and their stands on the issues. We organized poll watcher classes that trained volunteers to safeguard fair voting practices in precincts across Bexar County. And finally, and not unimportantly, we hosted one Texas-style election night party to celebrate some major successes!
And the results from 2010? A conservative sweep of political offices at the state level; a new conservative Congressman (and Tea Party supporter) Francesco “Quico” Canseco who defeated a liberal incumbent; honorable showings by Tea Party supporters in two other local congressional races; a sweep of conservative Bexar County judges (many of whom are tea party supporters); the reelection of a Tea Party supporter and conservative member of the State School Board; a number of other state and country successes for those who claim they will support our goals and objectives; and assurances from several non-Tea Party incumbents of their willingness to listen and dialogue with us on the issues before them. While we would never claim that the San Antonio Tea Party alone was responsible for these successes, we will never shy away from accepting a significant role in their achievement.
The successes of 2010 catapulted the SATP into 2011 with newfound enthusiasm. Riding the wave of electoral success, we used 2011 to consolidate and build upon these gains. Several notable achievements of the year were:
– Reorganizing the governance structure. The new structure continues a Board of Directors which meets monthly to set policy and provide strategic guidance, and adds an Executive Committee which meets weekly to plan and execute activities and events;
– The Board’s electing of George Rodriguez as president of the Executive Committee, and George’s subsequent emergence as the “face of the SATP” in the community and beyond.
– Drafting a formal business plan calling for expansion of visibility, fundraising, and outreach to impact the 2012 elections;
– Growing the organization, now with a reach of 6300+ individuals;
– Maintaining a timely and informative website with weekly updates;
– Hosting a two-hour radio program each week on Patriot 92.5 FM;
– Conducting monthly general meetings of all local patriots and visitors to inform and inspire. This year’s meetings included presentations by US Congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco, TX Senator Jeff Wentworth, TX Fourth Court of Appeals Justice Steven Hilbig, KSAT 550 AM radio personality Kevin Wall, political writer/speaker Kevin Jackson, Military Warrior Support Foundation CEO LTG Leroy Sisco (USA, Ret.), and President and CEO of Empower Texans Michael Quinn Sullivan.
– Solidifying a county-wide Neighborhood Group network of volunteers to serve as “boots on the ground.” Organized by zip codes and precincts, they meet regularly to stay informed and energized for grassroots activism and anticipated get-out-the-vote efforts in 2012;
– Training and organizing a Citizen Lobbyist watchdog group to attend official meetings and interact with public officials at school board, city, county, state, and federal levels of government;
– Hosting in July the only San Antonio forum and luncheon for all announced U.S. Senate candidates, attended by Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Ames-Jones, Tom Leppert, Glenn Addison, Lela Pittenger, and Andrew Castanuela;
– Hosting individual small-group meetings for each U.S. Senate candidate;
– Coordinating a Holiday fundraising effort that collected $1100 for the Military Warriors Support Foundation; and
– Working with other political, business, community, and social organizations which share core values and goals to find common ground on which we might join forces to effect lasting, meaningful political change.
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