Yesterday, protesters from the divisive Fair Trade Tea Party clashed with D.C. police, as violent protests erupted when throngs of activists descended upon Capitol Hill.
The group, inspired by the larger Tea Party Movement, demonstrated in front of the nation’s capitol, each member carrying clenched fistfuls of tea bags, many of which were ethically-sourced from sustainable plantations from around the world, as a gesture against government inaction.
The demonstration took a nasty turn when a few frustrated protesters began hurling objects, including scalding cups of tea, at the faces of legislators when they entered or exited the building.
The Fair Trade Tea Party first gained popularity during the onset of the financial meltdown, claiming that the current recession is a product of inequities created by careless international trade policies.
“Everyone blames the investment bankers for all the unemployment and inflation and poverty people are facing around the world, but it’s really Obama and his cronies in Congress’ fault for letting a flawed international trade system spiral into the state of disarray that it’s in now,” said one Fair Trade Tea Party organizer.
Activists have called for more stringent regulation by the U.S., as the trade deficit topped more than $37 billion in January. By putting certifications and policies in place, the organizers claim, the U.S. can level the playing field for the millions of artisans and cottage industry nations throughout the world who cannot compete large nations like China who consistently undervalue their currency and over-saturate the American market with cheap, low-quality goods.
Yesterday’s violence was sparked by recent remarks made by Sander Levin, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who put the onus on consumers and the private sector on Larry King Live.
He conceded that he understood the group’s concern over the economic conditions that we as a global population are facing, but added that as people have to make daily sacrifices whether to buy milk or diapers for their children, they won’t want to pay double at a Whole Foods-like market because a few “crunchy hippies” care about what some field-hands on the other side of the globe earn.
“Tensions have been steeping for a long time now,” said one of the protesters outside of the Capitol building. “It was only a matter of time before things got bitter.” Many now, on both sides of the divide view this recent violence as a huge setback for the Fair Trade Tea Party movement.
No one was seriously injured as seven people were arrested during yesterday’s demonstration.