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A Very Gentle Die-In

“Is this it?” some asked.

The few dozen Tea Party activists who made it to upper Senate Park in Washington this morning were confused at the size of the crowd. The night before, some of them had attended a FreedomWorks-sponsored workshop about the day’s events–a “die-in” during which activists would pretend to experience the effects of government health care in Senate offices, and a 1:30 p.m. “red alert” rally outside the Capitol. Either everyone was waiting on the latter event or they were lost.

“I’m not sure that this is the right place,” said Joanne Abbott, a Virginia Tea Party activist who’d trekked into town for every one of these events so far. “Aren’t we supposed to be over there?”

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At 8:45 a.m. the confusion fell away, because Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler of Tea Party Patriots showed up and began to give instructions.

“Since most of you don’t have appointments, if they tell you they don’t have an appointment available, just sit and wait, and when he comes just tell him you need a minute of his time,” said Martin. “Just be very polite and respectful and quiet. If security asks you to leave, I don’t know what the rules are, but you might ask if you could just sit in the hallway quietly.”

Mark Meckler, the organizer who publicized the “die-in,” told the crowd that today’s meeting between President Obama and Senate Democrats was scheduled to distract from today’s Tea Party rally. “Coincidentally, the president scheduled a meeting for 1:30 when we are going to be holding a rally with thousands of people out here,” said Meckler. “He’s going to take those Democrat legislators, he’s going to hold them hostage at this meeting so that they don’t have to listen to you.”

Meckler psyched up the crowd–which grew to around 60 people as members trickled into Senate offices–by giving bigger and bigger estimates of the 9/12 march’s attendance. “We put over a million people in D.C. on Sept. 12,” said Meckler. “How many of you were here? So you know, really, roughly 2 million people out here and they didn’t listen to us.”

If the “Die-In” theme was meant to attract the media, it worked–reporters on the scene represented Slate, TalkingPointsMemo, and CNN, which is producing a documentary about the Tea Parties. But no one TWI spoke to had plans to make trouble or get arrested.

“Have you ever known us to be impolite?” said a smiling Sherri Cooper, a Georgia retiree.

Here is a photo slideshow from this morning’s event:

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