In June 2009 in Bozeman, Montana the newly formed local tea party stormed a City Commission meeting demanding a permit for a Fourth of July Main Street parade to protest taxes and government spending. Commissioners were so intimidated they ignored both the normal application process and Montana’s open meeting law and granted a parade permit. The tea party’s plan to close down Main Street on the Fourth of July to protest taxes and government spending was going to cost city taxpayers $1,100 in staff and police overtime. The irony was too much for one Bozeman citizen, Brian Leland, who applied for an additional parade permit for Independence Day. Since city regulations only allowed an organization to apply for a parade permit, the application was submitted on behalf of another new organization in town, The Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus.
The application included a promise that The Coalition would raise the $1,100 to reimburse city taxpayers for the cost of the parade, in an attempt to shame the tea party into not relying on government spending to finance their protest. Ironically, the tea party, actually based 30 miles outside the city, felt it was city taxpayers’ obligation to pay for their protest.
The Coalition started raising money, through T-shirt sales and donations, with the stipulation that if the $1,100 goal could not be reached, The Coalition would not march and all the money collected would go to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. Several days before the Fourth, The Coalition announced that it had surpassed the $1,100 goal by an additional $1,500, which was donated to the Food Bank.
On the Fourth, The Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus, some 65 people strong, marched down Main in a fun, upbeat, fairly random parade preceding the tea party’s protest. In contrast, the tea party’s parade featured 500 or more people, a vintage aircraft fly over and lots of really angry signs. In the end, The Coalition, by reimbursing taxpayers, paid for not only their own event but the majority of the street closure costs of the tea party’s event as well.
The City of Bozeman decided in 2010 that only one Main Street parade permit would be granted for the Fourth of July. City code stipulated that the earliest date to apply for an Independence Day parade permit was the first week in January. The Coalition made application during the first week in February with the same promise to reimburse the city for the street closure costs. That spring when the tea party was making plans for the Fourth, they were told by the city that they if they wanted to march in a Main Street parade on the Fourth of July, it would have to be with The Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus. Rather than join The Coalition parade, the tea party left town for the holiday and marched elsewhere.
In 2011, The Coalition conspicuously monitored parade applications and as a result, the tea party abandoned a Fourth of July Main Street parade in favor of a picnic get-together in one of the city’s parks. Mission accomplished.
There are plenty of days in the year to complain about what is wrong with America; the Fourth of July is about what is great about this country. And thanks to The Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus, the face of Bozeman, Montana on the Fourth of July is not a bunch of angry people carrying derogatory and racist signs.
To date, The Coalition has sold over a 1,000 t-shirts. Local support, orders from Europe, the Pacific Rim, and even from our brave servicemen and women in the Middle East, has allowed The Coalition to contribute over $5,000 to local food banks.