Image: Tea Party member Jan Allen
Adrian Sainz  /  AP
Tea Party member Jan Allen stands in front of the sign-in desk at a meeting where two Occupy Memphis members were speaking onThursday  in Bartlett, Tenn.
updated 11/18/2011 6:57:55 AM ET 2011-11-18T11:57:55

Occupy Memphis member Mallory Pope had just finished telling a group of about 75 Tea Party followers Thursday night that politicians should not allow themselves to be influenced by lobbyists and unions when she received an unexpected invitation.

"It sounds to me that y'all ought to be joining us," said Jerry Rains, a 64-year-old computer programmer and Tea Party member. "You have a lot of the same goals we have, which is to take our country back."

Pope and fellow Occupy Memphis protester Tristan Tran had a lively, sometimes strained and confrontational, but mostly civil discussion with members of the Mid-South Tea Party at a municipal meeting hall outside Memphis.

The factions saw eye-to-eye on some issues and clashed on others. And, while the young speakers didn't change many minds, they did earn praise from the Tea Party members for their passion, honesty and courage.

The 21-year-old University of Memphis students had been invited by the Tea Party group to talk about the goals of the Occupy movement.

The invitation was extended after a discussion between members of both groups on the Tea Party's website, meeting organizer Jim Tomasik said.

PhotoBlog: Meet the Occupy Seattle protesters

Occupy Memphis set up camp last month at Civic Center Plaza in downtown Memphis, within view of City Hall and federal and county government buildings.

Their numbers have ranged from a dozen protesters to 100 or more, depending on the time of day. They have had no clashes with police and city officials have said they will not evict the protesters as long as they remain peaceful.

Tea Party members said before the meeting that they didn't know what to expect, and that most of what they know about the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots were from confrontations with police in New York and Oakland, Calif.

Video: ‘Occupy’ day of action ends in arrests (on this page)

Some said they were confused about the purpose of the Occupy movement because it has no leader and no consistent list of goals promoted by every Occupy group.

Almost every chair in the white-walled meeting room was taken.

Pope's speech and a question-and-answer period were supposed to last about a half-hour — they went for nearly two hours.

Pope gave a rundown of some of the goals of Occupy Memphis and some of her individual beliefs as well, including that Wall Street executives "gambled with our economy and housing market."

Story: To demand or not to demand? That is the 'Occupy' question

Both Pope and Tran stressed at times during the discussion that they were speaking for themselves and could not speculate on what other members think.

"The Occupy movement has remained adamant about not drafting a list of demands because terrorists make demands, and we're not terrorists," said Pope, a graphic design student. "We shouldn't have to demand a democratic process."

Common ground, disagreements
By the end, the Occupy Memphis members and their audience — made up mostly of whites over 40 years old — reached common ground on some issues, such as their perception that the government and politicians no longer listen to and serve the people they represent.

They also found some agreement in their stances against taxpayer-sponsored government bailouts and "crony capitalism," the idea that close ties between lobbyists, businesses, and other self-serving interests can influence government officials and the exercise of capitalism.

"We all want the same form of government, which is one that listens to its constituents," said Tran, a business and American history student who said he served in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 with the Army.

But some disagreements also emerged.

Slideshow: Faces of the Tea Party (on this page)

Tea Party members expressed frustration with big, intrusive government, while the Occupy Memphis speakers opposed what they perceive as the corporate world's manipulative influence on government policy.

Some Tea Party members noted that each of their protests were one-day events and they cleaned up after themselves, while the Occupy movement calls for long-term encampment at sites officials say have become unsanitary.

Tea Party members praised themselves for using the power of the vote to bring about the change they desired, and that the Occupy movement won't be successful until it does the same.

Pro-communist images
During the meeting, a Tea Party member showed a picture of pro-communist images at the Occupy Memphis movement, drawing shakes of the head and disapproving comments from audience members.

Tensions rose when a third member of the Occupy movement, Karen Seus, was told to sit down and stop speaking because only Tran and Pope were invited to address the meeting.

"Are you trying to divide us now?" Seus said loudly.

Story: Does Constitution protect camping protesters?

But the conflict blew over quickly, Seus was allowed to stand with the college students and she apologized for raising her voice.

Tran found himself on the defense at times, saying he does not approve of the illegal behavior seen at other Occupy sites and denounced the idea that most Occupy protesters are debt-ridden, unemployed troublemakers who don't vote.

"We do not condone violence. We do not condone destruction," Tran said.

Page Gregory, a retiree in his 60s, stood and praised Pope and Tran for having the passion and courage to stand before the tea party group and address its questions.

Then he said the Occupy groups should go home and work within their community to try to bring about change.

"Get people elected," Gregory said.

Occupy protesters march on NYC, nationwide

As the meeting closed, the Occupy Memphis members were inviting tea party members to join them at Civic Center Plaza, and everyone shared chocolate chip cookies.

Pete Dresser, 68 and retired, said the meeting confirmed what he believed about the Occupy movement.

"It's a ramshackle movement that is not organized, not focused and more emotional than purposeful," Dresser said.

Tran said the meeting was productive.

"The discussion and the exchange of ideas and the exchange of approaches, it's fundamental for American people to do that," Tran said. "It's progressive, it's constructive."

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: ‘Occupy’ day of action ends in arrests

  1. Transcript of: ‘Occupy’ day of action ends in arrests

    WILLIAMS: Good evening.

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Tonight, from New York west to Chicago and St. Louis and beyond, members of the protest movement that started under the banner Occupy Wall Street are on the move. This is the two-month anniversary of the birth of the movement, and this was billed as a day of action. It started in New York with thousands on the move and police right behind them. We begin with this still unfolding story tonight. NBC 's Mike Taibbi in Lower Manhattan . Hey, Mike , good evening.

    MIKE TAIBBI reporting: Good evening, Brian . You know, the Occupy Wall Street movement had promised huge crowds for its day of action, and that prediction finally looked realistic a short time ago. Now, some 5,000 protesters, union members and supporters are gathered in Foley Square , that's near New York City Hall and all the city's federal buildings. Before that, much smaller crowds and the police in complete control even when tempers flared. There were confrontations that resulted in injuries and scores of arrests in Lower Manhattan . The police from daybreak on keeping protesters on the sidewalks, out of the streets and away from announced or expected targets like the New York Stock Exchange .

    Crowd: NYPD blue, they will take your pension, too.

    TAIBBI: Protest spokesmen had said that at the very least they would disrupt or delay the opening bell.

    Unidentified Man #1: We're frustrated, we're angry and they can't just go about business as usual.

    TAIBBI: But the bell did ring on time and as usual, and in the streets outside it was clear even some supporters were losing patience with the drawn out Occupy phenomenon and its impact on the neighborhood.

    Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, I was supposed to be to work at 8:30, and it's taken me over an hour.

    TAIBBI: Others aimed derisive signs at the protesters, or simply shouted.

    Unidentified Man #3: Go out and get a job.

    TAIBBI: Overnight Occupy movement tent cities were dismantled in Dallas and in Berkeley .

    Unidentified Man #4: Every time we set up, the police are going to trample on our First Amendment rights , and we're going to come back and say we're not going to have rights abridged.

    TAIBBI: And by day the protests and sporadic arrests did continue in Portland , Oregon ...

    Unidentified Man #5: We need good jobs, not cuts.

    TAIBBI: Los Angeles , Albany and Las Vegas .

    Unidentified Man #6: We' want to send a message to the 1 percent that the 99 percent aren't going to take it anymore.

    Unidentified Man #7: What's the solution?

    Crowd: Revolution!

    TAIBBI: But they've been saying the same thing for two months. And without a list of demands or a concrete plan, how much support does the movement have now?

    Unidentified Man #8: We want to stimulate the economy. We want these people out of our parks and our city. The fight is in the wrong place.

    TAIBBI: And so far there've been about 200 arrests and there will be more if the protesters who amassed outside the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side try to cross that bridge and disrupt rush hour. So far that hasn't happened.

    Brian: Mike Taibbi in a wild night in Lower Manhattan . Mike , thanks.


Photos: Faces of the Tea Party — In their own words

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  1. Don Nunemaker, 61, Plymouth, Ind., retired Air Force officer and part-time pastor, is co-founder of "We the People," a Tea Party group in Marshall and Fulton Counties.

    “(It) started during the Bush era. I was not tickled by the Patriot Act. … I was also very unhappy with the attack in Iraq. … But that wasn’t enough to get me off my chair. …

    “When Obama emerged … he was talking as a moderate … (but) there was a total lack of transparency even though Obama said he would have the most transparent administration ever. …. One of his czars was a Communist. … What is a Communist doing in the American government? That was the last straw.

    “I would hope that political candidates ... will pay a little more attention about what the American people are saying. … We pay too much attention to minority voices… We’re not talking about race or skin color. … It’s (people) with a political agenda that is adverse to American well-being. Like Communists … like the unions.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Tom Grimes, 66, South Bend, Ind., retired stock broker and insurance sales rep. Grimes, standing aboard a bus bound for a Tea Party-affiliated rally in Indianapolis, founded St. Joe County Tea Party Patriots.

    “(My inspiration) is Glenn Beck primarily. I listened to him for several years before he was famous. It’s like taking a class from the most fascinating professor you’ve ever had.

    “The government cannot control things. … It’s what the Communists tried to do. ... That’s what Obama is trying to do. We are going to build windmills, we are going to build these little cars and if people don’t buy them we will raise gas prices to $25 a gallon. … We should have let (the banks) collapse. … We might have had a tremendously deep recession, but at least we’d be heading out of it.”

    “I want to see a drastic change in government -- smaller, with more authority back in the states. … I see no reason we need a Department of Education. ... We don’t need an EPA.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Hursel and Ebony Williams of Indianapolis, shown at a Tea Party rally on Oct. 16. Hursel, 40, is a video tech at a cable company; Ebony, 35, is an independent computer consultant. They say they are not Tea Party members, but sympathize with some of its positions.

    Ebony Williams: “We feel… that it is our duty as Christians to stand up for what is right.

    "Constitutionalists stand for the little man and for what Christ stands for – the right to be treated fairly, equally."

    Hursel Williams: “We've often been hoodwinked. … Things are often not as we were raised to believe.

    "I would like to see (the Tea Party movement) cause an awakening for people ... that people will seek truth.

    "I had a preconceived notion (that the Tea Party is racist). … I have felt nothing but love and talk about Christ. … I would bring my children to this." (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Kent Hizer, 49, a mechanical engineer from Mishawaka, Ind., who works in industrial product sales and as a volunteer policeman. He is running for Penn Township Board as a Republican.

    “I consider myself a conservative, fiscally and socially. … But I have a hard time classifying myself as a Republican because I think they have lost their way.

    “What interested me (in the Tea Party) … is I felt we were moving farther and farther away from basic constitutional law, and giving up freedoms. ….

    “I’m on a mission to hold elected officials accountable, locally and up the food chain. “I want to get people re-engaged no matter what party they are. … We have this precious gift … the right to vote … but people take it for granted. … There’s all this bravado -- ‘Vote the bums out!’ – but voter turnout locally is in the 20-30 percent range. …

    “The Tea Party has started to take some of that back.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Lenn “Curley” Gapinski, 58, retired mechanical engineer. He and his wife, Cheryl, own a vineyard and winery outside Monticello, Ind. He is a member of the White County Tea Party Patriots and teaches members about the U.S. Constitution.

    “It was during the bank bailouts that people became quite angry, and people started uniting through the Internet and saying, ‘Hey, we are taxed enough already.’

    “When we started organizing, the word ‘tea’ meant ‘taxed enough already.’ Everyone brings their own personal complaints, but that’s the core of it."

    Gapinski wants a flat tax to replace the current progressive income tax: “Forty-eight percent of the people in this country do not pay any federal income tax -- they are happy as pigs in mud. If everyone had to pay the same (percentage), everyone would have the same amount of anger, and they would hold the government accountable.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Emery McClendon, 59, FedEx courier, disabled veteran and a founder of the Patriot Resistance in Fort Wayne, Ind.

    “I grew up in a very Democratic household where they would break your neck if you voted any other way. … It was only when I got older that people started to challenge me -- they said you’re more of a Reagan Republican. I started to research it, and discovered that yes, I am. …

    “A lot of people in the movement were very disappointed with the reckless spending of George W. Bush … but at that time we weren’t feeling threatened by a person who wants to destroy the country… (and) laws that rip the freedom from under our feet.

    “Taking over the banking system, automotive industry, health care -- that’s totally un-American. … “(Obama) continues to spend, spend, spend. All these “czars” in cabinet positions … are really far-out, left-thinking people. … (Americans) now see the threat, because it’s out in the open and they are resisting.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The Cosgray family of Monticello, Ind. (left to right, Nichole, 16; Rachel, 20; Laura, 47; Sam, 48; Tyler, 25, holding daughter Bella; Alex, 27, and wife, Amanda, 24). Sam works at Caterpiller. Laura, who works part-time at a local school and has recruited dozens of people to join the White County Tea Party Patriots.

    Laura Cosgray: “We bust our backs every day going to work, teaching our children values and working, and that you don’t rely on the government. ... For them to take our money … to prop up the banks that are failing because of corruption and greed … that was the tipping point right there for America.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Faith Jones, 58, of Valparaiso, Ind., co-founder of the Northwest Indiana Patriots. She works in hospitality and sales and shoots trap as a hobby.

    “One time a reporter asked me is this (movement) race based? I looked at him kind of sideways … and said, ‘What color is Congress? What color is the Senate? It’s all of those people. … It’s about ideology.

    “It’s the arrogance of these (representatives), the unlawfulness. … Who gave (the government) permission to bail out the auto industry?... I have failed many times in my life. … Failure builds character.

    “I want to stay in the United States of America, the land of the free. I don’t want to become a communist country. Where does this government have the right to make us buy or sell anything? So… the health care bill really set it off for me.

    “I think it has taken about 40 years for our government to lose the principles of our founding fathers. It will take time to get correct.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Anna Kroyman, 61, runs a distribution company from her home in Monticello, Ind., which she shares with boyfriend Jack Van Valkenburg, 65, a retired Chicago police officer.

    Kroyman: “We support conservative issues. … We’re behind (candidates) if they support these issues. … But this is not about parties anymore. Both parties need to revamp themselves.

    “We don’t endorse the candidates, we expose them. We bring them into your backyard and let you ask them about their views. Then you can be self-educated.

    “The core values (of the Tea Party) are limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets. …

    "We’re heading into a socialistic system here. What we are experiencing now is the fall of democracy. … Limited government we no longer have, fiscal responsibility we don’t have, free markets are being stripped as we speak.

    (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Christine Murdock, 86, South Bend, Ind., a former PE teacher, longtime Republican activist and a member of the St. Joseph County Tea Party Patriots. Her husband, Rawson, is a retired printing company executive.

    “The Tea Party people are so passionate. They will really get out and go door to door. … They are hard, hard workers and very interested and very friendly.”

    Because I’m so familiar with Republican politics I’ve found the people in the Tea Party are very naïve. … I’ve tried to help … them understand the structure of the whole thing.

    “They need to realize what it’s all about and they can’t be naïve and too idealistic. … But they are going to learn and they have learned.”

    “Ideally … perhaps because I’m big in the Republican party—If (the Tea Party) could kind of merge with Republicans, we would get more action and passion in both groups.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Allen Rhodes, 70 and Sally Rhodes, 68, of Avilla, Ind., at anti-“Obama Care” rally in Indianapolis on Oct. 16. The longtime Republicans say they registered as Democrats in the last election so they could for vote against Barack Obama.

    Sally Rhodes: “We were concerned before Obama was nominated (because of what they called radical associates). … Now we’re heading down a socialist path. He is a very radical progressive.”

    Allen Rhodes: “We are so concerned about losing our rights and the debt terrifies us … for our children and grandchildren.

    “And the Green movement is ridiculous. Are they taking our money to combat global warming or just lining their pockets?” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Sherry Marquelle, a singer who performs at Tea Party events. Marquelle, who also works in health care, declined to give her age or place of residence.

    “I was never politically involved until 2009 (amid the health care debate). … My daughter (6) has … a rare illness. We found out about it in January, and it’s very aggressive. … I thought, ‘How is (the change in health care) going to affect her and other children like her?”

    Marquelle visited Washington, D.C. with a group of Indiana citizens, but meetings scheduled with their representatives were instead attended by aides. Marquelle returned disappointed and angry, and wrote a song, “Hot Mama, listen up Big G.”

    “I’m a baby-holdin,’ gun totin,’ fire breathing dragon. …” the lyrics say. “Don’t tread on me cause there’ll be hell to pay.”

    “There’s a whole group of us conservative singers going around trying to get our country back through music.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Emily Daniels, 18, a freshman at Bethel College in South Bend, Ind. She is a Republican and has attended some Tea Party events. She is doing door-to-door campaigning for Duane Beals, a Republican running for state representative.

    “I am … a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order. I want to support candidates that uphold these values.

    “The Tea Party is a great movement because it is a group of people that supports conservative candidates and intends to hold these people to what they claim to stand for.”

    “I think it's important for people to get involved because many of the freedoms that are the very reason our grandparents came to this country (are) slipping away. Besides that, my generation and I are going into adulthood with almost $39,000 dollars of debt on my head because of money the government has spent!” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Kody Linville, 23, of Kendalville, Ind., is a member of a “9-12 group,” which espouses “nine principles and 12 values” and largely aligns philosophically with Tea Party groups.

    “In high school I was interested in the gun issue, and joined the NRA. I registered to vote as soon as possible. After high school, a friend was killed in Iraq in 2007, (and) I started paying attention to other issues. … I started researching why we entered the war and (learning about) our individual liberties.

    “One of our nine principles is that we are the authority over our lives, not the government.… They don’t have the authority to mandate that I buy health insurance.

    “The outcome I would like to see (from this movement) is a government limited by the Constitution as intended by the founders. That we will let people do as they want within the Constitution. … Also, for people of any political persuasion to listen to candidates and get involved.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Jonathan Tremaine Thomas, 29, and Mollie Thomas, 30, of Indianapolis, attended the anti-“Obama care” event on Oct. 16 to explore the Tea Party movement. Mollie teaches ballet and Jonathan is a “media entrepreneur/urban missionary.”

    Jonathan Thomas: “We are trying to find out how we can best navigate the social and political waters and stay true to our religious convictions.”

    Mollie Thomas: “I’ve always been restless with the Republican party, but stayed because of moral convictions. … I’m very excited about (the idea of) smaller government control. I don’t like Obama care. I’d like more decisions made on the state and local level.”

    Jonathan Thomas: “I find hope in the fact that more people are finding a voice in a movement -- this one or others. I don’t believe we can have enough political parties to represent everyone in this very diverse nation. “ (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Karen Virgin, 47, of Lowell, Ind., who works in manufacturing and is a member of the Northwest Indiana Patriots, attended the anti-“Obama Care” rally in Indianapolis on Oct. 16.

    “Obama care is a big concern. … We have a “Cadillac” health care plan at our (factory). We really value it, and it isn’t looking good (under the health care bill.)

    “I realized this country is losing its freedoms and has to get back to the Constitution. The government is too big.

    “I try to spread the word among co-workers. … So people recognized the rights that we are in fact losing. It’s not about a political party. I’m disappointed in the whole political system.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Friends Ben Dallas, 33, left, and Brandon White, 32, both from Kendalville, Ind., attended the anti-“Obama Care” rally on Oct. 16 in Indianapolis. Dallas is in the U.S. Army; White works in retail.

    Dallas: “I’m not part of an organization; this is my second (Tea Party) event. I agree with the principles of the Tea Party -- especially less government. … In principle, I disagree with the health care (bill) and believe it opens the door for a single payer (system) and that’s when the quality really goes down.”

    White: “I am not too involved (with the Tea Party) but I stop by local groups. … They inform people on legislation and candidates. … I would like to see more people involved and slowly see the power go from the federal government to the states. … There is no way somebody in Washington, D.C., knows best what I need here in Indiana.”

    (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Dick Mechling, 68, is retired from the pharmaceutical industry. He and his wife, Mickey, live on 10 acres near Lakeville, Ind. They are active in the St. Joe County Tea Party Patriots and are campaigning for Jackie Walorski, Republican candidate for Congress.

    “Politically we have not been active until now.

    “The thing that probably energized us … was Sarah Palin’s (appearance) in the last election. … Here is somebody who thinks more like we do. … She just seems like plain folks.

    “I see the Tea Party as a kind of like an educational thing. I think we have lost sight of what the government’s role -- according to the Constitution -- should be in our lives. … The Constitution was written to protect us from our government. The founding fathers knew that government … would be inclined to get wild with their power. So they limited their power. As you can see the Constitution is being trampled on daily by our president and Congress.” (James Cheng / Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Pastor Donald Nunemaker
    James Cheng /
    Above: Slideshow (18) Faces of the Tea Party – In their own words
  2. Image:
    John Minchillo / AP
    Slideshow (24) Occupy Wall Street: A day of action


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