Members of the Tea Party showed up at IRS headquarters across the nation on Tuesday in order to protest alleged harassment and intimidation from the government. The peaceful protestors did not receive a warm welcome – armed personnel from the Department of Homeland Security made an appearance in states like Missouri, Florida, Illinois and Indiana.
In Fort Wayne, Indiana, only one Tea Party protestor showed up at IRS headquarters. The woman reported that there were three armed security personnel at the scene monitoring her, and at least one of the security officers was from the DHS.
There were similar displays of force elsewhere across the country. Protestors in Los Angeles spotted a DHS helicopter hovering in the skies above the protest. One protestor described the scene, “Many of our 300 tea party folks were approached immediately by Homeland Security and told they could not be on federal property. My lawyer told me as long as I didn’t block passage we were OK. Many Homeland Security trucks and a helicopter above us scared many patriots so most of group went to public side walk to rally.”
Deploying armed security to watch over a peaceful protest is not unreasonable, but this stunt has left members of the Tea Party wondering why the federal government needs to send the DHS to deal with a simple protest. Local police forces would have been more than sufficient. The not-so-subtle implication here is that the Tea Party is somehow associated with terrorist organizations or ideals.
The DHS has apparently expanded its jurisdiction to include political groups. Earlier this year, Richard Davis, the director of the Arkansas State Fusion Center, said that the DHS also focuses on “domestic terrorism and certain groups that are anti-government. We want to kind of take a look at that and receive that information,” That includes people “putting political stickers in public bathrooms or participating in movements against the death penalty.”
Tea party members have been left to speculate about the DHS’s involvement in the protest. Were they simply trying to keep the peace, or were they using intimidation tactics and implications of terrorist involvement to eliminate dissent?