Tea party alternative? Obama backer launches ‘coffee party’ movement, including West Palm Beach eventby George Bennett | March 11th, 2010
A 2009 rant by MSNBC’s Rick Santelli helped launch the conservative tea party movement.
Now an Obama supporter’s Facebook rantings have launched an alternative “coffee party” that will try to gain traction Saturday with gatherings across the U.S., including one in West Palm Beach.
A local organizer said the group doesn’t have specific policy aims other than to promote civil dialogue, which he said is in contrast to the “obstructionism” of the tea party movement.
“We don’t have an agenda. Our agenda is cooperation,” said George Papison, a telecommunications consultant from West Palm Beach.
The coffee party movement was started by filmmaker Annabel Park, who volunteered for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and is a contributor to the United For Obama channel on YouTube.
“I kind of lost it and started ranting on my Facebook page about frustration I felt listening to news coverage that made it seem like the tea party was representative of America. I completely disagree with this,” Park says in a video on the Coffee Party USA Web site.
Park says the federal government is the “expression of our collective will” and should play a role in solving problems. “If you don’t believe that the government has any role, then, yeah, you should join the tea party.”
Park’s partner, filmmaker Eric Byler, co-directed the viral “Si Se Puede Cambiar” video in support of Obama in 2008. Park and Byler both volunteered on Democrat James Webb’s 2006 U.S. Senate campaign in Virginia.
West Palm Beach organizer Papison, 59, said he supported Obama in 2008 but also supported John McCain’s failed 2000 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Elections records show Papison switched his voter registration from Republican to the Independent Party in September 2008. Papison said he has also been registered as a Democrat in the past.
Papison said he read about Park’s efforts last month and decided to get involved.
“Philosophically what I want to see is open communications,” said Papison, who criticized the “very right-wing” tea party and its boisterous opposition to health care at town hall meetings last summer.
“We don’t believe in going to events and shouting people down and obstructing conversation. Their objective is to close the lines of communication,” Papison said.
“That’s not what our objective is,” said South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson.
“I’m for dialogue, too. It’s unfortunate our government’s not listening to us,” Wilkinson said.
The West Palm Beach coffee party event is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Panera Bread at 771 Village Boulevard. Information is available at 561-865-6864 or firstname.lastname@example.org