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NAPLES — More tea, anyone? Organizers of the April 15 “tea party” protest at U.S. 41 and Pine Ridge Road are lining up a repeat performance, this time as part of Naples’ Fourth of July parade.
Barry Willoughby, one of the leaders of a loose confederation calling itself Naples Tea Party has received permission from the city to have a float in the parade, which will kick off at 10 a.m. on Fifth Avenue South.
The next thing to do is decide on a design. The working concept is a Washington-Crossing-the-Delaware theme with a borrowed truck pulling either an actual boat or a trailer made up to look like one, Willoughby said.
He hopes to include a Revolutionary War color guard with flags of the period and as many sign-carrying marchers as he can muster.
That’s where the July 4 event will split from the one of April 15.
The city’s parade rules require elements to carry a Fourth of July theme. On top of that, Willoughby says he wants signs to be positive. “I’m hoping I don’t see one sign with ‘Obama,”’ he said. Negative signs tend to give critics of the tea party movement ammunition.
With hundreds, perhaps thousands of people lining both sides of U.S. 41 on April 15, Willoughby said there was no way organizers could control the message that went out. One sign that sticks out in his memory stated simply “Obama Sucks.”
“I’m not going to allow that,” this time, he said.
It’s not about curbing free speech, he said, but rather of abiding by the parade rules and focusing the tea party group’s message. “I don’t want the other side to define what the movement is about.”
People who disagree with what the movement stands for are free to get their own spot in the parade. “I’m not going to deny ACORN marching in the parade. Get your own float.”
And what does the movement stand for? It’s pretty simple, Willoughby said. It’s about smaller government, reduced spending and following the Constitution. “We really don’t have a platform.”
There were at least three separate tea parties around Naples in April but Willoughby says as far as he knows, no other July 4 events are scheduled locally.
The next big tea party is brewing for Sept. 12 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the National Taxpayers Union, the Club for Growth and the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, among others, the 09.12.09 National Taxpayer Protest seeks to build on the momentum generated by the April tea parties.
So far, roughly 3,000 people have registered to attend, a far cry from the 500,000 estimated to have attended the more than 500 tea parties held April 15. But organizers are optimistic the number will grow as the date approaches.
“We have been inspired by your involvement in this cause, and we believe that we can work together to send a message to the politicians in Washington that we’ve had enough of the wasteful spending, trillion dollar deficits, bailouts, and taxes,” writes Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks.org, one of the event sponsors.
Willoughby is interested in hearing from anyone wishing to take part in the July 4 parade with the tea party group. He can be reached at 498-8787.
For more information about the Sept. 12 event, go to http://912dc.org.