Members of the Naples Tea Party are strongly denying claims by the NAACP that the tea party movement has racist elements. The civil rights group, meeting in their national convention in Kansas City, called on the tea party movement to disavow racism among its members. The group passed a formal resolution to that end, Tuesday evening.
"This is nothing but race-baiting in my estimation," said Barry Willoughby, of the Naples Tea Party.
"There is no evidence at the events I have attended or organized, of anything racist," he told WINK News.
Larry Wilcoxson, an African-American member of the Naples Tea Party group, agrees. "I have been welcomed with open arms at the events. There is no racism," said Wilcoxson, a candidate for state representative who lives in Immokalee.
However, Earl Barnes, an African-American in Ft. Myers, takes issue with those statements.
"From what I have seen on TV, yes, I believe they have some racist members," Barnes said of the national Tea Party movement. "They blame everything on President Obama, and I believe it is because he is black. They wanted him to be thrown out in the first year in office, before he had time to do anything. Plus you see the billboards, comparing him to Hitler. That is racist," said Barnes. He was referring to a billboard put up by a tea party faction in Iowa. The image said Obama advocates radical change, much like Adolf Hitler did. The faction on Wednesday apologized for the billboard and covered it up.
Willoughby said, in Southwest Florida, the movement has been civil and polite. He says the movement advocates limited government and free enterprise, and race has nothing to do with it.