Americans For Prosperity's anti-Occupy Wall Street rally in Midtown this morning had little to offer besides vague bromides about "letting liberty create jobs." That is, until the 20-minute mark, when several people showed up with signs emblazoned with slogans like " 'Everyman for himself '-- Jesus" and "I'm dreaming of a white president, just like the ones we used to have." The appearance of the latter sign prompted an immediate scrum around its bearer. "Take that racist thing down!" one woman shouted, while another said, "Nice sign!" "Why are you doing this?" a third AFP supporter pleaded. Then one man aggressively confronted the sign-holder: "Who is paying you? Tell me who is paying you!"
That man then attempted to grab the cellphone camera of photographer Charles Meacham, who was videotaping the altercation. Another man wearing a suit, sunglasses and a Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth earpiece began pushing Meacham away from the first man. Both refused to identify themselves, but the first man, let's call him Grabby, told us he worked for the New York State Bar Association and represented conservative broadcast host Barbara Stinson, who was speaking at the rally. Grabby and the second man said they had not planned on attending the rally but were just in the area and stopped by.
The irony of someone demanding to know who was "paying" the protester with the offensive sign at a rally for a political organization created and maintained by the Koch brothers wasn't apparent to many of the rally's participants. "This is broad-based organization, these folks who come to these rallies are from middle America," Frayda Levin told us. Levin, who supports Libertarian Gary Johnson's bid for president, said she doesn't mind AFP and the Koch brothers' support of Mitt Romney. "It's free association."
AFP's New Jersey state director, Steve Lonegan, said he wasn't fazed by the presence of Occupiers or protesters sporting signs like, "Thank You Koch Brothers," because it provided publicity for the event. "It's a free country. We expected them—and look at all the cameras they brought."
For an anti-Occupy Wall Street rally, the rhetoric was short on criticisms of the movement, save for AFP member Irene VanHattem. "They're stupid, so stupid. They don't understand that the power isn't on Wall Street but in D.C." VanHattem then criticized the state of the economy under Obama, calling him "anti-business." We asked her about the robust, record-breaking state of the Dow Jones. "All I know is that gas prices are going up, and the regulations are so bad companies can't do anything."
For Occupy Wall Street protesters Brittany Anderson and Stan Williams, who held the racist sign, the event was a success. "It felt good," Williams, who is black, said. "It's exactly what I expected would happen. Some people came up and told me that it wasn't about race, that the president was just failing. But other people, they told me 'nice sign!' You heard them!" Indeed, we did.