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The myth of the anti-tea party SWAT team

I like to keep track of fables and narratives within the tea party movement, and we learned of a new one this week -- the story of the "SWAT team" called out to threaten tea partyers in Quincy, Ill. In the words of Jim Hoft, the Gateway Pundit:

The SWAT Team was called in today at the Quincy Tea Party Rally ... local Quincy Tea Party Leader Steve McQueen was directing protesters when the SWAT team was called in.

The only problem with that? The SWAT team wasn't called in. Local police, wearing riot gear, briefly marched down the street to clear it for the president's motorcade.

UPDATE: More details from John Cook.

The story, from the Quincy Herald Whig.

There were a few tense moments when the crowd moved west down York toward Third Street after the president's motorcade arrived. A Secret Service agent asked the crowd to move back across the street to the north side.

When the crowd didn't move and began singing "God Bless, America" and the national anthem, Quincy Deputy Police Chief Ron Dreyer called for members of the Mobile Field Force to walk up the street.

The officers, mainly from Metro East departments near St. Louis and dressed in full body armor, marched from the east and stood on the south side of York facing the protesters.

There was no physical contact, and the officers did not come close to the crowd, but there were catcalls and more than a few upset tea party members, including a woman who shouted, "This is communism!"

McQueen also assisted in asking people to step back to the north side of York. The crowd moved back, the officers stayed for about 15 minutes and left, and there were no other incidents.

The video of cops in riot gear walking down the street in formation is more weird than threatening. But the sexed-up version of this story is so good that HotAir headlines it "SWAT team outside Obama event beats back geriatric tea-party hordes," even though the blog's own take on the story is less intense.

This isn’t a SWAT team, actually, just local cops in riot gear, but it is the first time I’ve ever seen police in armor do a jaunty little parade down the street when responding to an event. I assure you, when the NYPD rolls up in helmets and shields, they’re all business.

You'll see these photos again, with or without the story of "SWAT teams" battling back average Americans. (It's very important, for some reason, that Hoft point out that most of the protesters were elderly white women.) If tea partyers want to oppose actual police state SWAT tactics, though -- and not just make overheated arguments about the looming "communism" of Barack Obama -- I'd point them to the work of Radley Balko.

By David Weigel  |  April 30, 2010; 9:52 AM ET
Categories:  Tea Party  
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