Tea Party groups across the nation are accusing local and state governments of a double standard – charging them fees to hold rallies in public parks, while allowing Occupy protesters to set up camp for free.
“I find it extremely frustrating and upsetting,” said Colleen Owens, a spokesperson for the Richmond Tea Party. “It is definitely a slap in the face.”
Owens is demanding a refund of about $10,000 from the city of Richmond, claiming her group was charged for rallies at Kanawha Plaza but the Occupy protesters have not been charged.
“We’ve had to pay for the police, the sanitation, we had to pay for emergency personnel, and we event had to buy a $1 million liability policy,” Owens told Fox News.
She said it was unfair that the protesters have been allowed to essentially break the law by setting up camp in the city park.
“We’re trying to show this is unfair and biased treatment by the mayor and the city council,” she said. “Either force the occupiers to follow the law that’s on the books or evict them.”
And what if the city doesn’t administer the law equally?
“If they are not going to apply the law equally, then they should refund our money,” she said. “They’ve been camped out there for almost two weeks and they have not paid one dime. They are not being held accountable to follow the law, yet we were expected to follow the law.”
Similar accusations have been made by other tea party organizations across the nation – including Atlanta, Winston-Salem, NC, and Nashville.
Judson Phillips, of the Tea Party Nation, told Fox News that he’s been getting e-mail from conservatives across the country wondering why they were charged by the government to hold rallies.
“Tea Party groups were given a bit of harassment as they tried to secure permits to hold rallies and yet when these Occupy groups come in – even though they don’t have permits, they’re allowed to do whatever they want,” he said.
Phillips said his group failed to comply with one regulation and were told they could not hold a rally at Legislative Plaza in Nashville.
“I was specifically told by one bureaucrat that if we showed up, they would have the Highway Patrol arrest us,” he said. “We could not do our event there, but Occupy Nashville has been camping out on Legislative Plaza for three weeks.”
And according to a spokesperson for the Tennessee Dept. of General Services, Occupy Nashville has been allowed to camp without securing a permit.
Central office manager Yolanda Bowers told Fox News that as of today Occupy Nashville would be required to by a $65 rental fee and show proof of a $1 million insurance policy.
“You are required to gain a permit,” she said. “They did not get a permit.”
But Bowers said as of today, Occupy Nashville has been given an ultimatum – apply for a permit or leave the plaza.
Owens said she believes Richmond city leaders are showing favoritism toward the Occupy protesters.
“The mayor said he was reluctant to throw the occupiers out of Richmond because he was a child of the Civil Rights protest and that he respects them for what they are doing,” she said. “When we applied for our permit, they didn’t tell us ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, we’re children of the 60s, we don’t believe in charging for protests.’ No. They took our checks and forced us to jump through the hoops.”
Wendy Caswell, with the Louisville Tea Party told WHAS that Occupy Louisville protesters were allowed to get a permit to camp in Jefferson Park until Dec. 31st.
According to a spokesperson for the mayor, the Occupy group had to pay a $25 fee.
However, the tea party group had to pay $75 for a one day permit to use the same park. They were also required to purchase insurance, hire security and medical personnel.
“Why isn’t the same standard (applied) to the Occupy Louisville movement,” Caswell asked radio host Mandy Connell.
With reporting from the Associated Press