Hundreds of Citizens Express Outrage Over Tea Party’s Rally ‘Round Hate

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9 July 2012

Hundreds of Citizens Express Outrage
 Tea Party’s Rally ‘Round Racism
Las Cruces Mayor, City Council, and El Paso Electric Co.
All Take A Stand Against This Dismal Display of Division


LAS CRUCES — Last week, Americans everywhere took to the streets to celebrate our country’s independence. In amazing showings of patriotism, friends and neighbors came together to celebrate our freedom and diversity in floats parading down Main Streets across America.

But, among all those patriotic displays, one stood out. Right here in New Mexico, theLas Cruces Tea Party chose to show their patriotism with the Confederate flag – over a sign that said “change again in 2012.LCTeaPartyFloat” (click the picture at right to see the full-sized image)

What’s worse – the City of Las Cruces named their float the best of show and parade sponsor El Paso Electric gave them a $1,000 prize!  That’s right. The city’s July 4th commission apparently thought the Tea Party’s float, displaying a relic of hate and division, best represented what it means to be an American!

New Mexico is a minority-majority state, with diversity that should be celebrated, not oppressed. Thankfully, after local progressives sounded the alram, ProgressNow New Mexico and others laucnhed a campaign to stand up to the Tea Party’s divisive symbol hundreds of letters were sent to Mayor Miyagishima and El Paso Electric denouncing the Tea Party’s float and demanding that such a hate-filled symbol not be awarded prizes again in the future. Just 48 hours after we helped spread the story, more than 600 people sent more than 4,800 emails to El Paso Electric and city officials.


Though the theme of this year’s Electric Light Parade was “New Mexico History,” the Tea Party chose to ignore New Mexico’s deep Spanish and Mexican heritage and instead highlighted a symbol that, in most people’s minds, stands for hate, racism, and discrimination. Instead of creating a float that was truly inclusive of all parts of our state’s history, the Tea Party chose to exclude Hispano and Latino history.

Journalist Matthew Reichbach (of the NM Telegram and the Santa Fe Reporter) put it well when he wrote: “While the float included the flag of the portion of the country that seceded from the United States to preserve slavery, flags of Spain and Mexico, which are a larger part of New Mexico’s history, was not included.”


Mayor Miyagishima, El Paso Electric Respond to Constituent Concerns

Mayor Miyagishima released this statement on Saturday echoing his constituents’ concerns and assuring the people of Las Cruces that such open displays of bigotry and hatred will not be rewarded with prizes again in the future:

Good Evening,

I, along with the city council, city staff and the people of Las Cruces
were caught by surprise when the Las Cruces Tea Party float, with a
Confederate flag displayed, won the Best of Show award at the Las Cruces
Electric Light Parade on July 3. It was all the more disturbing when that
Confederate flag represents a view so contrary to that held by the City of
Las Cruces and 99% of our people.

The Las Cruces Tea Party can believe whatever it wants, but to have this
symbol and what it represents, highlight the winning float at a celebration
of our nation’s independence is an outrage.  I deeply apologize to the
people of Las Cruces as well as our friends throughout the State of New
Mexico for the pain that this has caused.

I’m sure that parade sponsor El Paso Electric and the 4th of July Planning
Committee share this sense of outrage, and I can assure you that we will
thoroughly review the rules and procedures for next year’s parade to make
sure that this never happens again.  Please be assured that the freedom
of speech will not be infringed upon when these changes are made.

Mayor of Las Cruces

(Send an email to Mayor Miyagishima and thank him for taking a stand against the Tea Party’s divisive display of the confederate flag by clicking here.)

ProgressNow New Mexico and citizens across New Mexico commend Mayor Miyagishima and the Las Cruces City Council for expressing their opposition to the Tea Party’s endorsement of hatred and racism. More importantly, we commend the Mayor and the City Council for taking clear actions to ensure that division and racism is never awarded, nor has a place in the Las Cruces Electric Light Parade.

Late today, parade sponsor El Paso Electric provided ProgressNow New Mexico with this statement that condemns the use of a Confederate flag in the Electric Light Parade and confirms that El Paso Electric will not support the parade unless such an outcome will be prevented in the future (emphasis added):

“As it has for more than 10 years, El Paso Electric responded to a request from the City of Las Cruces and agreed to sponsor the July 4 Las Cruces electric light parade celebrating of our nation’s birthday. El Paso Electric played no role in the management of the parade, nor did it participate in the selection of the floats. El Paso Electric was surprised and outraged at the selection for an award of a float that contained a Confederate flag.  El Paso Electric will not support the parade in the future unless criteria are established by the City
to prevent such an outcome in the future.
 Finally, we appreciate the Mayor’s prompt response and concern regarding this matter.”


The Tea Party’s Pattern of Division

While the Tea Party’s Confederate flag float highlighted a specific incident of political divisiveness, once the story broke ProgressNow New Mexico’s subscribers started sharing their own stories of other instances of inflammatory Tea Party actions from around the state.

The Tea Party’s display of the Confederate flag is not an isolated incident but is instead part of a larger Tea Party pattern that uses hateful rhetoric and divisive symbols to motivate their base. In 2010, a Tea Party member waved a confederate flag while protesting the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) near Rep. Harry Teague’s office in Las Cruces. (pictured at right)LCTeaPartyConfFlag

As further evidence of the Tea Party’s obliviousness on this sensitive issue, Tea Party treasurer Tom Cooper told the ABQ Journal: “the [Confederate] flag was displayed because of its historical significance and critics ‘need to wake up and get a life.’ Told that some view the Confederate flag as a symbol of a racist institution, Cooper said: ‘Well, to hell with them, that’s the way I feel about it.'”

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