Filed under: NOM Tour Tracker-California
Day 8 on the NOM California tour: Spending on lavish hotels and bullying? Check. Drawing crowds? Err…
Pretty epic follow-up to the bullying of Anthony -Adam
By Arisha Michelle Hatch
Between Stop #31 and Stop #32
It’s 9:20 am (the Santa Ana event is scheduled to start at 10), and we just caught up with the Tus Valores organizers and you’ll never guess where: in the lobby of The Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Huntington Beach, waiting for the Vota Bus to pick them up.
It’s not quite the Ritz, but it’s no Best Western either.
We can now confirm that the organizers checked into this beachfront hotel Friday and stayed for two nights before checking out.
Do National Organization for Marriage donors know that tour organizers are staying in such a high-priced hotel under the facade of engaging Latino voters?
Perhaps this is why NOM is so afraid to disclose its donor list?
Stop #32: Santa Ana
If you missed it, our tour videographer, Anthony Ash, was assaulted in Santa Ana by a man affiliated with the Vota Tus Valores tour and Alfonso Aguilar’s law firm. Full details can be found in the post here. Other than that, 15 members of the Victory Outreach ministry were present, along with 14 pro-equality counter-protesters.
Stop #33: Oceanside
After we completed the filing of the police complaint in Santa Ana, we were lucky to catch up with the Vota Bus in Oceanside at Camarillo Park. One non-Latino supporter of the Vota Bus was present as organizers didn’t even bother to pull out the sound equipment. It appeared as though organizers were merely taking a stretch break while talking to the man who was holding a small video camera. The man approached us attempting to record our press passes and told us that he was a reporter. When we asked what outlet he was from he said that he was a stringer from the Independent and that his name was “Gary Gary.”
Stop #34: Escondido
In Escondido, six men from the Victory Outreach ministry were bused in, joined by two other supporters of the Vota Bus.
As if to counter criticism that was sure to come in after today’s assault, Alfonso spoke, saying to the crowd that “we [support] the first amendment and freedom of the press.”
As Adam reported the other day, a new speaker joined the tour. Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse from the Ruth Institute was handed the microphone and gave a short speech on life and traditional marriage before handing out “one man, one women” bumper stickers to the small crowd.
Does that mean Brian Brown, who is also slated to join the tour, is not far behind? Will he be joining us for the big capital-letters “RALLY” advertised in red on Vota Tus Valores’ website? Does “RALLY” in red mean more than 15 people will attend? Does he think today’s bullying measures up to his own actions in Annapolis?
BREAKING: Vota Tus Valores ally assaults NOM Tour Tracker videographer. Where does the bullying stop?
By Adam Bink
Our videographer, Anthony Ash, was just assaulted by a man associated with the Vota Tus Valores tour. The Vota Tus Valores bus stopped at 17th & Main in Santa Ana, in front of the James G. Roche law firm, which is where today’s rally location was held (more on the Roche law firm later). Anthony was wearing a press pass, holding a small Flipcam and walking next to the private parking lot towards the Vota Tus Valores Bus when approached by an older Latino man (seen below) who said that our Trackers were on private property.
The man, who claimed to be the owner of the property, angrily told Anthony that this was private property, and quickly struck Anthony in the arm, knocking the camera to the ground. Our tour camera has been damaged, and we’re not sure that footage can be recovered. (Update: Anthony is shaken up, but fine. Thanks to all of you for inquiring)
The man, whose name we are working to obtain, then quickly ran into the firm. Now, you’re probably asking why in the world an event was held in a parking lot of a law firm at 17th and Main in Santa Ana. Well, guess whose smiling face is plastered on the front page of jamesgrochelaw.com:
James G. Roche Proudly Welcomes Our New Senior Counsel/Alfonso Aguilar/Former Chief of the USCIS Office of Citizenship/Alfonso will provide you with his exclusive and expert counsel.
The James G. Roche law firm, which has its main office in Santa Ana, specializes in immigration law. They also have an entire page devoted to photos of Alfonso, as well as a bio and recent articles/news clips. This is Alfonso’s home base. I’m guessing the reason the event was held here is because they needed a location after moving it from this morning’s planned location, most likely because they didn’t have a permit, and so they could claim private property and bully anyone they didn’t want there.
The Santa Ana police were quick to respond. They quickly stopped the Vota Tus Valores Bus from making a quick getaway, and a complaint has been filed with the police for battery. More to come on the legal proceedings as it comes in.
Last, a few personal words on this behavior.
Last week, the attention of our nation was captivated by the suicide of the fifth and sixth gay teens in the past month alone. The rationale that drove them to such a tragic end was bullying, plain and simple. Bullying by secret videotape or bullying by peers in a Houston-area school.
This is a different kind of bullying, but the intent is the same: to make people feel like they are second-class, beneath those who bully.
It’s a pattern, now. Brian Brown doesn’t like that LGBT and allied supporters of equality stood up and exposed him and his organization for what they are, so he tried to have us evicted in Annapolis over the summer, an event for which the police apologized to Courage Campaign Institute. Alfonso argued he and his staff have “freedom of movement” and tried to intimidate us away from documenting their anti-equality arguments. Thomas tried to physically block Anthony from filming at a recent tour stop.
It’s all emblematic of the same problem: to make people feel like they are second-class.
I’m now openly gay, but I wasn’t always open. I’ve been harassed in my day- in the locker room, in school, at summer camp. They all did it for the same reason: because I’m different, and to them, people who are different are second-class.
So I know bullies when I see them, and that’s what I’m calling you, NOM: bullies. Do you hear me? You are no different than the bullies who harassed me or harassed those poor kids or anyone else across America.
You know why? Because you can’t handle us being every bit as equal as you.
And you know what else? It just cost you.
By Adam Bink
We haven’t showcased a lot of footage aside from photos of equality supporters/Vota Tus Valores protesters on this tour (partly because the crowds have been smaller), but they’ve still been there. I want to take a minute to highlight some folks today.
Here’s Jennifer Bagley, who appeared on Saturday’s stops:
One marriage isn’t threatened” coming from straight allies. I wouldn’t call opposition based on “intolerance” for everyone, but Jennifer has it right that the sky doesn’t fall, and marriages aren’t threatened, by more love spread between couples. Per commenter JamesUK in a recent thread, I think Cynthia Nixon said it best in a recent panel with Brian Brown:
“I want to say to the gentleman to my left, gay people who want to marry have no desire to redefine marriage in any way. When women got the vote they did not redefine voting. When African-Americans got the right to sit at a lunch counter alongside white people, they did not redefine eating out. They were simply invited to the table…We have no desire to change marriage. We want to be entitled to not only the same privileges, but the same responsibilities as straight people.”
James is right. This is an excellent response to the “redefinition” argument.
Here’s another equality supporter echoing the same message:
Does choice, marriage matter as much when laws like AB 1070 pass? When families are broken apart? It’s funny because on this whole tour, I’ve watched Alfonso and co. talk about those two topics extremely heavily. But when challenged on immigration, all they can say is how Boxer “hasn’t done anything”. But as Arisha articulates well in this video, it comes down to how Latino families are treated.
I don’t think that NOM and the Vota Tus Valores staff understand that.
By Adam Bink
Via Twitter and their website, Vota Tus Valores trumpets this Globe and Mail piece (for those who don’t know, the Globe and Mail is the Canadian paper with the largest circulation nationwide, whose coverage/editorials tend to be more conservative in terms of business and some national political candidates, but social liberal. Growing up in suburban Buffalo about 30 minutes from the border and being an avid consumer of news, I actually read a lot of Globe and Mail for years).
They excerpt it on their website with this excerpt:
Mr. Aguilar’s organization, an affiliate of American Principles in Action, is spending $1-million in its bid to elect the 56-year-old Ms. Fiorina, who recently battled breast cancer. Not only does the former Hewlett Packard chief executive’s opposition to abortion and gay marriage make her more aligned with Latino views, Mr. Aguilar insists, but the Tea Party-courting candidate’s support for a guest-worker program should be music to the ears of Hispanic families.
Ms. Boxer helped kill a 2007 immigration reform bill that included a guest-worker program. Under pressure from her union backers, she warned that the legislation would have created “a pool of cheap labour at the expense of the American worker.”
… Latino disenchantment with the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress for failing to push through an immigration reform bill have given Ms. Fiorina’s supporters reason to be optimistic. Despite Ms. Boxer’s lead, pollsters believe a large chunk of the Latinos who say they will vote for her will, in fact, stay home on Nov. 2.
Of course, they bury the lede, not in the traditional journalism sense, hardy-har, but in the sense that they don’t want you to see it:
The luxury bus pulled up outside the California capitol bears the smiling, olive-toned faces of a nuclear family and a plea to the potential queen makers in the state’s fiercest Senate race in a quarter-century.
I am myself wondering how much this bus exactly cost, and who these people on the side are. More iStockphotos?
They also skipped this paragraph:
Ms. Boxer is outpolling Ms. Fiorina among Hispanics, who now account for more than one-fifth of the state’s registered voters, by an average margin of 2-to-1. Though two polls this week showed her losing ground, however, Ms. Fiorina has been even or slightly ahead of her rival among non-Hispanic white voters.
The more important reason I’m pointing to this, aside from their selective editing, is that what’s missing in this piece is how effective they’ve been, which is to say, not at all. You could probably count how many Latino voters NOM and Vota Tus Valores has actually talked to on this tour, much less persuaded, without running out of fingers or toes.
Which brings up the more important questions: how much bang are they actually getting for their buck? If I were an investor in this tour, I would sure want my money back. They’ve spent more time eating, hosting private receptions, and going on Jelly Belly factory tours than anything else. They haven’t drawn crowds or made any attempt to do so. Aside from this Globe and Mail piece, they haven’t had any significant news coverage outside of this space right here. And they’re now spending even more money flying out Brian Brown and Jennifer Roback Morse and all the other associated expenses with them. What is the return on their investment?
NOM and Vota Tus Valores can skip over the parts of news articles they don’t like, but they can’t skip over that this tour has been a gigantic waste of time and money. And rest assured that’s the story we’ll be telling to other papers like the Globe and Mail.
And by the way, Alfonso and Brian, if you disagree, we’ve got a camera and a bevy of follow-up questions waiting for you.
NOM’s California tour has now gone from surreal to bizarre. Pics and (potentially) video will be added to Arisha’s post later. — Eden
By Arisha Michelle Hatch
We’ve been sitting in Dana Point for more than an hour (since approximately 12:50) now across the street from Salt Creek Beach and organizers from the Vota Bus are behaving more strangely than usual.
We’re about 2 miles from the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. Here’s a pic of what the Ritz looks like:
It is now 2:00 pm. The Tus Valores website initially planned to make a 2:30 stop at the local Ritz Carlton but removed the location from their website earlier this week (although it wasn’t subtracted from the Tour stop total of 42; then again they missed two stops yesterday and did not subtract those from the title either).
They refuse to even turn off the engine, but I suppose the environment isn’t one of their values.
There’s some high-level strategy going on right now. We have a hunch that they don’t want the bus filmed pulling into the upscale hotel.
There are now four cars traveling with the Vota Bus. At some point during the wait after a long strategy session, several of the volunteers got out of the Vota Bus and got in two of the cars and drove off.
Alfonso Aguilar is still on the Vota Bus, so we’re sticking with him, which has appeared to severely frustrate tour organizers.
“The [Ritz Carlton] stop shouldn’t have been publicized, it’s a private stop and they don’t have a parking lot big enough for the bus to turn around in so we just sent our organizers there instead,” Mark the security guard informed us off-camera.
Given the unreliability of the narrator and the fact that he chose now to speak to us given their vow of silence, we’re going to assume that his motivations aren’t on the up and up. We overheard Allegra telling the cars to go to lunch when they left.
Shouldn’t Alfonso be speaking at the private event? Is this a stop or are they trying to get to the hotel they’re staying at?
Sorry to ruin your vacation, Alfonso.
An hour and a half into the wait, a resident from Niguel Beach Terrace, the apartment complex that the bus is now parked in front of, came out to complain about the noise from the engine running.
Ten minutes later the bus driver finally turned off the engine.
The woman opened her door and promptly yelled “thank you,” in a condescending tone.
At no point have organizers gotten off the bus to engage anyone at the beach. Several men in suits have joined the bus.
At around 2:30, Alfonso finally poked his head out and asked for Allegra the Project Director.
“Allegra, where’s my suit?”
“My mariachi suit?”
What in heaven’s name is going on here?
At around 2:40 the car holding the organizers finally returned.
“How was lunch?” Phyllis asked as the organizer gestured with an “okay” sign.
Alan, a volunteer organizer, also stated that he went to lunch.
“But [the security guard] just said you went ahead to the Ritz.”
On camera Mark, the security guard, denied it. “I never said that….check your tapes.”
The security guard confirmed what we already knew: That he has zero integrity and that this tour is a complete lie.
UPDATE BY ARISHA: At approximately 3:10 pm, Alfonso Aguilar exited the Vota Bus with two men wearing suits, one Latino and one Caucasian and the unidentified tour organizer that we refer to as “Country. Club”. Three of the four men (everyone but the Caucasian man in the suit) got into a white advance car. A different advance car attempted to block us from following, but Anthony was able to get around them.
Just prior to this encounter, the same car attempted to block our vehicle in the parking lot of the apartment complex where Anthony was waiting.
“Are you serious?” Anthony asked Mario de Jesus, a Tus Valores organizer who we had originally pegged as one of the “good guys” (albeit misguided)
“Red paint won’t look too good on your car,” Anthony replied with a straight face.
Mario laughed and walked approximately 10 steps before turning around and moving his car.
The car driving Alfonso began making its way towards the Ritz Carlton about two blocks away. After noticing that we were behind them, the car decided to drive pass the Ritz and go back onto the main street before making a right to turn go back towards the Ritz (making a complete circle around the block).
After failing to lose us, they gave up and turned into the Ritz parking lot. We jumped out with our cameras and Alfonso opted not to get out of the vehicle, only the Latino man in the suit got out where he was met by the Caucasian man in the suit in the lobby of the Ritz.
Anthony can now officially add evasive driving to his resume.
But seriously guys, if you have to stoop so low as to attempt to block our vehicle to give your boss cover, then isn’t there something wrong?
You’re better than that type of behavior Mario – so much better than that. Or at least I thought so.
(But then again, I have been wrong before).
UPDATE BY RICK JACOBS:
Clearly, there is no discernible purpose to NOM’s “tour.”
They have not been greeted by crowds.
They have not even tried to build crowds.
They have not tried to generate earned media.
They have not laid out a rationale for the tour.
They are spending a lot of money staying at expensive hotels, riding in an
expensive bus, driving in a fleet of rental cars… doing nothing.
If you were an investor in NOM, would you not ask for your money back?
UPDATE BY ARISHA:
The Huntington Beach stop was more of the same. Ten equality supporters showed up to protest the bus. We thought for a moment that the Vota Bus would actually make the stopon time because we arrived in Huntington around 4 pm (the stop was scheduled at 4:30), but then the bus, as well as the advance car holding Alfonso drove up and down Pacific Coast Highway for about an hour before parking along the side of the street several blocks from their scheduled location.
The organizers didn’t even attempt to engage anyone. Anita, a straight-ally counter-protestor (who also happens to be half Latina) went to engage the tour organizers undercover. We began filming the interaction and as expected they quickly rushed her onto the bus.
They wouldn’t allow her to take any pictures, didn’t give her any real information and then told her not to talk to us after she exited.
She later described the bus as “nicer than my apartment.”
Don Fuller, a straight-ally member of the P8TT family who describes himself as a “conservative Republican” who grew up in the Bible belt attempted to engage the organizers but they didn’t want to talk to him after they heard his spiel.
Don had a quick exchange with tour organizer Thomas Cordoba (he runs a blog called the American Papist) before Thomas quickly jumped back into a vehicle.
“I would be happy to have an off-camera conversation with you if you email me,” Thomas told Don before scurrying away.
And with that the Vota Bus pulled off, leaving us behind. We’re done following them for the day anyhow and will catchup with them on Monday in Santa Ana.
We’ll upload all the video footage as soon as we can. We’re also working to get you a full list and pictures of all the players from the tour.
Sunday is a day of rest, afterall. I wonder if the VotaBus will make any church stops? Pastor Richard Ramos is on the bus now.
Day 6 on the NOM California tour, Part 1: Why go to Latinos when Latinos can come to your Best Western?
We’ll have more from Huntington Beach later tonight. -Adam
By Arisha Michelle Hatch
Stop #29: Santa Barbara
Originally scheduled for an 8:00 am stop at Mission Park in Santa Barbara, Vota Tus Valores updated their website at some point Saturday morning after 7:30 am to reflect their new stop: the Best Western Pepper Tree Inn, their hotel.
It makes sense, I hate getting up early on my vacations too.
Rather than actually get up and engage voters in Santa Barbara, organizers opted instead to host a “private meeting” with bagels and coffee in a conference room provided for free by the hotel.
Tour organizers looked shocked when we arrived at the hotel.
“This is a private meeting,” one organizer quickly said.
“It was advertised on the website,” I replied.
“It was?” asked a new organizer on the tour (he won’t confirm his name so we’ve just been referring to him as “Country Club” because he always looks ready to play golf).
“Yes [it was posted],” confirmed Allegra Herburt-Hewell, Project Director for the Latino Partnership Initiative.
As I sat down for “the meeting” a different organizer began communicating in Portuguese (we believe) with Allegra.
We were then told by Country Club just before being asked to leave that the meeting was posted for people who were invited.
Normally the Best Western Inn conference room would cost $185/a day and according to the hotel’s contract with K’s Tree House, a restaurant located on the property, any food for group events must be provided exclusively by the vendor. Those rules didn’t apply to Tus Valores, apparently; not only did they not pay for the room, the hotel manager, Shavonne, also allowed them to bring in their own food.
When I informed the hotel manager that this tour was sponsored by the National Organization for marriage – an organization that contributed millions to the passage of Proposition 8 in California – the manager stated, “I have my religious views, but I don’t judge you just because you’re agnostic.”
Okay, I don’t recall using the words agnostic at all, but I suppose it’s implied when you’re a supporter of equality.
“Do you think that the millions of gay and lesbian couples who were denied the right to marry the person they love may have a problem with your decision to enable them to meet on the hotel grounds, your personal religious views aside?”
“My head is spinning right now,” the manager said.
The Best Western Inn is located at 3850 State Street, Santa Barbara, California. You can contact the hotel at (805) 687-5511 to voice your displeasure.
It doesn’t appear that anyone other than tour organizers were actually invited to this “exclusive” meeting.
A photographer and reporter from the Santa Barbara Press were at Mission Park, the original set location, and luckily were able to get in contact with Allegra and make it to the Best Western Inn in time for the last minute “meeting.”
Stop #30: Camarillo
In Camarillo, we stopped at a private parking lot that included Bank of America, as well as “Nueva Vida”, a Spanish-Christian radio network, for an event.
Our own Anthony Ash, a Bank of America customer, inquired whether the bank had given permission or endorsed the Vota Tus Valores tour. A bank representative informed him that it was a private lot and told us he would call the property manager to see if they had permission to host the small rally and if not then he would call the police.
A police car arrived on the scene approximately 10 minutes later as the stop was wrapping up.
“We’re leaving now,” Mark Roepke, the tour security officer, told the officer when approached.
The next stop originally planned for the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel at 2:30 was apparently canceled. We’re now sitting in a DMV parking lot in Culver City. Somebody should have informed organizers that DMVs are closed in California on Saturdays.
We’ve been sitting in the empty parking for about 20 minutes now while organizers take a stretch break. I hope they’re not counting this as a stop.