Occupy Protesters Mic-Check Palin During CPAC Speech
Sarah Palin wasn't even a quarter of the way through reading her closing manifesto for the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., when the signal went up.
Palin was just off on a riff, mocking President Barack Obama.
"Hope and change...Yeah, you better hope things change...," she said disdainfully.
"Mic check! Mic check!" went the call-and-response that's become the hallmark of the Occupy movement. There were fewer than 25 protesters. The SRO audience in the the hotel ballroom -- capacity 4,200 -- in which Palin spoke erupted in a unison chant: "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" Police and security guards escorted the Occupiers out of the building, as much for protection as apprehension. There were no arrests.
As the protesters descended the hill on which the Marriott Wardman Park, where CPAC took place, Dana Loesch, editor of Andrew Breitbart's BigJournalism.com, stood on the sidewalk, sneering at the protesters, accusing them of violating Palin's free speech rights and barking a trope that's fast becoming a mainstay of Breitbart's smears against Occupy: the accusation that protesters are paid. "You got paid $60 to do that," Loesch yelled.
Dana Loesch, editor-in-chief of Andrew Breitbart's BigJournalism.com, assails and videos Occupy protesters as they exit the CPAC site. (Photo credit: A.M. Stan for AlterNet)
"I paid for my pass with my own money," the protester shouted back. These Occupiers were all college students -- with the exception of one high school student -- so they were able to buy CPAC passes at the student rate of $35. (Non-students pay $195 for the same conference package.)
Breitbart, Loesch's boss, is in the midst of making an anti-Occupy propaganda film with director Steven Bannon, to be distributed by Citizens United, the group that won the law suit brought to the Supreme Court that changed the rules of campaign finance to allow a much broader role for corporations in political campaigns. On Friday night, Breitbart went into a rage when Occupy protesters showed up in front of the Marriott Wardman Park to protest CPAC. "Racist, sexist, anti-gay," the protesters chanted. "Right-wing bigots go away."
The night before Palin spoke, Andrew Breitbart, who is making an anti-Occupy propaganda film, screamed at protesters outside the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, where CPAC took place. CampusProgress captured the impresario's tantrum on video.(Photo credit: Emily Crockett for CampusProgress)
"You're freaks and animals," Breitbart screamed repeatedly, as seen on a video shot by CampusProgress. "Stop raping the people!" he shrieked.
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On Saturday afternoon, the protesters who mic-checked Palin left the hotel grounds in brisk and orderly fashion.Once off the hotel property, the Occupiers read the declaration of Occupy DC in full, and in unison, led by Jacob Hope, a student at American University. The statement reads, in part, "To build the world we envision, we commit ourselves to overcoming our personal biases so we can successfully challenge systems of oppression in solidarity." And, indeed, they were a diverse little group, representing all races.
Meanwhile, back in the ballroom (I watched this part on C-SPAN after the fact), after the thunderous U-S-A chant died down, Palin responded to the exit of the small band of Occupiers, telling her audience, "See? You just won. You see how easy that is?"
Most of Palin's speech was her usual Obama-bashing mash-up, combined with shout-outs to members of the Tea Party movement. But her main objective, it seemed, was to call conservatives together to promise to play nice in the presidential election, regardless who won the Republican nomination in what she deemed a still-competitive contest.
"Competition elevates our game. We've got to keep the competition going," Palin said. "Let's make sure this competition brings out the best in our party."
Palin has yet to officially endorse one of the G.O.P. presidential contenders, but that didn't stop her husband, Todd, from throwing in behind Newt Gingrich. And if a hint of where she's leaning is to be gleaned from her CPAC speech, it's probably not toward Mitt Romney, who won the CPAC straw poll.
Palin said: "Our candidate must be someone who must instinctively turn right. It's too late to teach it or spin it at this point."
Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington correspondent. Follow her on Twitter: @addiestan