As Sam noted yesterday, the local Republican party shelled out three grand for a proper venue to accommodate the mammoth crowd they expected at their welcoming protest for President Obama. So, miles from the president's fundraiser, in the thick of the triple-digit late afternoon heat, how was the crowd out at Franklin Stadium yesterday?
Pretty good, local party chairman Jonathan Neerman told us when the event had wrapped. Neerman estimated the crowd was around 1,000 strong, even though there were plenty of empty seats in the bleachers. As long as the crowd was bigger than 500, he told us, Goar Park wouldn't have held them all. Neerman said the charged atmosphere around the president's visit and the stifling heat were what had him most concerned going in. "I have had some sleepless nights in the last three years," Neerman said, "but the most sleepless nights I've had have been over this."
While the crowd was heavy on Tea Party slogans and the old favorites waving from the stands -- "Don't Tread On Me" flags, an Obama-as-Joker sign -- Neerman said he was encouraged that the crowd seemed receptive to the evening's main message: voting straight-ticket Republican this November, something he said Tea Party crowds don't typically go for.
The most dramatic bit of showmanship was probably outside the stadium parking lot, where former DISD employee Diana Aguilera stood by the fence in a white sheet with "No 2 KKK" written on the front. She held a sign over her head reading, "Haters killed JFK." Her husband David said he was there standing behind her for protection, though most drivers simply waved enthusiastically and went on in to park. "We're not immigrants, and we feel like a lot of the tea-baggers' message is just anti-Hispanic," she told us.
Conservative radio all-star Mark Davis, who emceed the rally, was just one of a handful of speakers who addressed race directly: "This is not about race," he said. "Let me tell you that Republicans love Hispanics who are here legally. It's not about race; it is about behavior."
Standing behind a podium covered in "Had enough? Vote Republican" posters, Davis called Clarence Thomas one of his favorite Supreme Court justices and insisted Republicans are carrying on Martin Luther King Jr.'s message. That was followed by plenty of talk about how far the U.S. has traveled down the road to socialism since Obama's election.
Neerman told the crowd the Dallas County Republicans were throwing the event because "we figured somebody should have an official welcome for the president, since the Democrats and Bill White weren't going to do it."
"They want you to follow aimlessly and succumb to tyranny," said State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, who boasted that she'd been named the third-most conservative member of the Texas House of Representatives. (She said nothing of her former ride.)
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Other speakers last night included DCCCD trustee Bill Metzger and Republican National Hispanic Assembly's local chairman Jason Villalba.
To close out the event, the podium boasted a one-two punch destined for buddy-comedy greatness, beginning with Stephen Broden, the pastor and gifted orator who's challenging U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson this fall, whose face was plastered across signs and shirts in the crowd. From the moment of his introduction, the crowd was cheering, and grew loudest as he closed his brief comments by raising his voice and leading a chant: "We are going to Washington because have had enough. We have had enough! We have had enough!" Lewisville Congressman Michael Burgess did his best to keep the energy high with a wide goofy grin and a few awkward fist pumps.
The crowd had already thinned out by then, and by the stands emptied quickly once Burgess wrapped, with folks carrying their "Proud Member of the Angry Mob" and "Revolution is Brewing" signs down the bleachers as Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" played them back to their cars.
Check out more photos from the rally here in our slide show.