Covering the Tea Party - Part I

Political rallies, politicians’ appearances - of any kind - are among my favorite things to cover. So the emergence of the Tea Party - which started as a street-protest movement of “the people who don’t protest,” middle-class whites, most over 40, was a fascinating story from the start.
Its roots - at least in central N.C. - were in protests against illegal immigration that dated to June 2007, when building tradesmen in my county who were angry about the sudden glut of illegal immigrants in the building trades protested at the courthouse. I’d covered those earlier protests. These people were the nucleus of what later was termed the Tea Party here.
After its 2010 election victories here in N.C., the Tea Party largely got off the streets - and largely shifted to at-the-legislature activism instead of its iconic rallies. But in covering it I had developed a great source very early on: a local organizer who was at the level where the Tea Party and the “official” Republican Party merged. I also had a second source among the building tradesmen involved in the Tea Party - and in the earlier illegal-immigration protests. These sources gave me advance notice of upcoming events - and I covered most all of the movement’s street rallies here in central N.C. I even covered street protests of the movement’s that didn’t have widespread notification.
One older man’s sign I photographed at a 2010 rally in Greensboro made clear what the Tea Party’s only unifying theme was, despite all the different issues on homemade signs participants brought: that Tea Party members just wanted back the U.S. as it long had existed - even quite recently (below). Discussions with the building-tradesman source made clear that was the one unifying driving force fueling the movement. Other than that, it is a movement of unfocused rage - something my coverage found early.
At least one of my photos from a Tea Party rally ran paid in a Scandinavian news magazine.

Tea Party member demands back the America he knew.
Another Tea Party rally photo of mine ran paid in a Scandinavian news magazine.