DALLAS, Texas — Despite the United States-specific etymology of the designation itself, representatives of Israel, Greece, Japan, Austria, Serbia, Italy, and Australia proudly declared themselves Tea Partiers here Thursday night as official guests at the FreedomWorks group's FreePAC rally. Glenn Beck even brought them onstage.
The group sat together, draped in their various flags, throughout most of Thursday's rally. The most voluble of the global visitors included Yuya Watase, of the Tokyo Tea Party (which has received coverage on this side of the world before, notably in The Atlantic). Through a translator, Watase explained that his chapter has 300 members but that its gatherings can attract up to 2,000 people. He said he "came to thank the American people." He wore a button with a cartoon face, the Tokyo Tea Party's logo:
"The Boston Tea Party is like the origin of the history of Japan, a freedom movement," Watase said.
Giacomo Zucco, of Milan, came on behalf of Tea Party Italia. He claimed over 10,000 members for his group, and says he's considered himself a member of the Tea Party for a year.
"Two years ago, a young guy from Florence saw thousands of leaders of America protesting the taxation and the government spending," Zucco said by way of explanation. "And he just said, we need the Tea Party more than the States itself. And now we have the biggest Tea Party outside the English-speaking world." For what it's worth, Tea Party Italia has nearly 4,000 likes on Facebook.
BuzzFeed goaded Watase good-naturedly about the American Tea Party's relative might. "We are friends," he replied.
"Nationalities don't mean anything," Zucco said. "We know that the American revolution is better than our current situation. We are not jealous — we hope that the American parties get bigger every day and we get bigger as well."
Belgrade's Milos Nikolic came to represent the Libertarian Club of Serbia, a FreedomWorks partner.
"The Libertarian Club is official center, and right now the Tea Party movement is trying to build wider coalition in Serbia," Nikolic said. "FreedomWorks is role model for us."
The FreedomWorks conference's events continue over the weekend. Last night's rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, which attracted over 13,000 people by organizers' estimates, made much of its foreign guests — the multicultural feather in the mostly-white Tea Party's cap. "These guys here are remarkable," Beck said after inviting the group onstage. "We have a history in our country of a Tea Party; they don't."
"Some of these people want freedom so bad and they don't even know how to get it," Beck said. "Their countrymen — you think our countrymen don't listen to us, try being from some of these countries."