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The Strange Odyssey of the Ron Paul Tent at Occupy Philly

• via Yahoo! news
By Tara Murtha
Ron Paul supporters and Occupiers make for strange bedfellows: While Paul’s supporters and Occupiers agree that this country is in big trouble, they advocate wildly different solutions. On a recent afternoon, a Paul supporter hanging outside the Ron Paul tent on the Northwest corner of Dilworth Plaza explained the ideological rift. “[Occupiers] basically want the government to help them,” says a 56-year-old man who didn’t want to give his name. “[For Ron Paul supporters], the view is [the government has] helped plenty . They helped so much that it’s destroyed us financially.”

Differences between the camps don’t stop with fiscal policy. Lots of liberals who want to “end the Fed” can’t get behind Paul’s anti-choice rhetoric and conservative stance on issues such as gay rights and immigration.

The presence of the Ron Paul tent has kept some would-be Occupiers away. These are posts from the Democratic Underground message board: “Frankly, that Ron Paul tent and message is a huge turn-off to me and antithetical to what I thought the ‘Occupy’ movement was about.”

“I really wish the Ron Paul group would start their own gig and just stay away from OWS,” posted a user named Zorra. “If they threw a party, hardly anyone would go to it. So they have parasitically attached themselves to our ultra-progressive revolutionary movement because we are what’s real and what’s happening, in order to push their junk without doing any heavy lifting.”

The tension played out on the Plaza. Throughout October, the Ron Paul group heard rumors about other Occupiers’ efforts to have them banned from the Plaza. While Occupy spokespeople say they’ve never heard of any such efforts, other Occupiers say they have.

“Some [Occupiers] have tried to get [the Ron Paul supporters] banned,” says 33-year-old Melanie Bartlett, a Philadelphia school district administrator. “My husband’s an immigrant, and Ron Paul people, and Ron Paul, have very different ideas about immigrant policy.”

“I don’t trust him to be an anti-racism ally and this movement is built on that,” adds Bartlett. “I can’t stress enough that they don’t represent the views of most people here.”

Then there’s the matter of the gun. Some Occupiers have kept their distance from the Ron Paul tent because Fernando Antonio Salguero, who runs a sideline business teaching people off-the-grid survivalist techniques, regularly carries a Colt .45 slung on his hip. He has a permit to open carry, and has unapologetically and consistently worn the weapon every day he’s been on the Plaza.

“The 2nd amendment protects the 1st Amendment,” he likes to say. “I have the right to protect my DNA,” he says, which is his way of saying he has the right to defend himself from harm if necessary.

Though Salguero sees the gun as a peacekeeping tool (“An armed society is a polite society”), it freaks out other Occupiers.

“You’d really catch a lot less attention if you were naked than with a .45 on your hip,” say Chris Goldstein, spokesman for Occupy Philly.

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