Outside the ballroom, some of the AFPers are still rattled. There were countless short Zapruder films showing different angles of the moment a car driven by one of their own gunned it in front of an Occupier and showing moments when Occupiers shouted obscenities at AFPers. I talked to Caleb Hays, Gavin Kreidler, and Jerrod Mendicki, College Republicans from Kansas who tried to keep their distance from the shouting crowd. Hays showed me an iPhone video clip of the mob of Occupiers moving toward the car as it drove off. It’s hard to see.
“I stayed pretty far away,” he said, “because when we moved closer, they were shouting stuff like, ‘Fuck AFP.’ I felt like I was going to be injured, just for my beliefs. That’s completely un-American.”
“When I was in high school,” said Kreidler, “I was at a big pro-Iraq War rally in Wichita. And that wasn’t even violent.”
“People want to compare the Tea Party and this movement,” said Hays, “but you can’t do that after last night.”
McPherson Square, the home base of Occupy D.C., is only seven blocks from the convention center. I headed over there to reconstruct the mess from Occupiers’ accounts. Steve Hartwell, a former construction worker from Richmond (he quit the job to come up here), recalled some events and explained how he became one of the few people arrested.
“I saw the cops start to let the driver go after the car hit one of us,” he explained. “I walked up to the cop like this.” (He demonstrated by holding up the middle fingers of both hands.)
How did he feel about the scuffling and shouting? What did he think of the plight of people like Dolores Broderson, who ended up going to the hospital for a head injury?
“Some of them I talk to and seem like fine people,” said Hartwell. “Some of them seem like total assholes. It was not the best situation to understand the other, which is important. Yeah. There probably should be some more understanding.”
“In some ways it was a success,” said Drew Franklin, an audio engineer who’d been part of the protests. “And in other ways … well, I’d say we learned that we need to do more planning.”
Back at the convention center, the ugly stories from Friday night were circulating. The most popular afternoon session, with dozens of people grabbing floor space when chairs run out, was hosted by Andrew Breitbart. In his morning speech he ripped into the Occupiers, “freaks” embarrassing themselves with “rape and public masturbation.” Later, he gleefully mocked the movement.
“Let’s have a general assembly consensus,” Breitbart said. “Twinkle fingers up!”
Everyone lifted their hands and wiggled their fingers, a parody of the Occupy organizing tactic.
“First issue on the docket is rape,” says Breitbart. “Should we allow rape to happen at the Tea Party?”
They wiggle their fingers toward the ground, meaning no.
“OK, we’re already different than them.”
Breitbart later sought out Dolores Broderson to tell her he was sorry for what happened to her and to ask her how she was doing. She was healing. AFP gave her a plane ride home to spare her the possible jostling she would have gotten on her AFP bus ride. It would be OK.
“Congratulations,” he said. “You’re now a martyr of our cause. Unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn’t care about you. If this were the other way around, you’d be on ABC News, live. It’d be a media circus.”