Tea Party convention hopes to change misconceptions

Tea Party convention in Sevier County hopes to change misconceptions

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By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - The first Tennessee Tea Party Coalition Convention kicked off this weekend in Gatlinburg.

Organizers expect more than 1,000 people to attend from across the state.

When most people think of the Tea Party movement they usually think about the right-wing activists and anti-President Obama supporters, but organizers say that is not true.

"I've been accused of being a neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, right-wing extremist, who hates a black man in the White House," said convention organizer Mark Herr. "Actually all those are false. Our primary focus is to educate the people."

Herr said they are trying to get an out-of-control government back to the basics of the Constitution.

Herr also said that it may come as a surprise, but not everyone at the convention is Republican.
      
"The Republicans don't own the tea party movement," said Jim Tomasik, a Democrat from Memphis. "They wish they did, but they don't. It's owned by the individual."

Herr said 40 percent of the people in the tea party movement are either Democrat or independent.

The three-day convention includes speakers and workshops on a range of topics from free market to radical Islam.

The event even attracted a younger crowd like Allen Rollings, a high school sophomore from Alcoa.

"I think one thing I've heard a lot of people say here that I think is important, probably won't happen anytime soon, but I think we do need to get rid of political parties," said Rollings.

"If the two party system continues to fail the people," said Herr, "I think the people will rise up and do whatever they need to do save their republic."

Herr feels this movement is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Organizers said they chose Gatlinburg for their first convention because 27 of the 47 Tea Party organizations in the state are located in East Tennessee.

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