Monday, March 15, 2010

Meet the people who are percolating in the Coffee Party

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- In one chair sits a rural retiree, his financial security shot in the slump, a humble Southerner who's never thought much about politics. In another seat is a born Northerner, an inner-city native, a relative of a civil rights giant. And nearby, circling a table, are an economist, an artist, a onetime John McCain supporter and a long-haired guy who's rich in Woodstock memories.
Meet these members of the Coffee Party Movement, an organically grown, freshly brewed push that's marking its official kickoff Saturday. Across the country, even around the globe, they and other Americans in at least several hundred communities are expected to gather in coffeehouses to raise their mugs of java to something new.
They're professionals, musicians and housewives. They're frustrated liberal activists, disheartened conservatives and political newborns. They're young and old, rich and poor, black, white and all shades of other.
Born on Facebook just six weeks ago, the group boasts more than 110,000 fans, as of Friday morning. The Coffee Party is billed by many as an answer to the Tea Party (more than 1,000 fewer fans), a year-old protest movement that's steeped in fiscal conservatism and boiling-hot, anti-tax rhetoric.
This new group calls for civility, objects to obstructionism and demands that politicians be held accountable to the people who put them in office.
Are you at a Coffee Party gathering? Share your images, story
"The government has become so broken that the will of the people has been lost in the political game," said Stacey Hopkins, 46, coordinator of the Atlanta, Georgia, chapter. "And the only voices you're hearing are the ones of those who are screaming the loudest. They have a right to their views, but they don't have the right to speak for all Americans."
At a recent Coffee Party planning meeting at Manuel's Tavern, an Atlanta political institution, about 40 people gathered to speak for themselves. They brought their own stories of why they were there.
The one who was "never active in this stuff"
Politics? It never spoke to John Purser, who's preferred the simple life. At 69, he lives in a two-room house on a rural dirt road in Carroll County, drives a 26-year-old Ford pickup and takes odd jobs to get by. He cuts grass, chops wood and does handyman work. Earlier this week, he freed a bird from someone's house and "got paid with a bottle of whiskey," he said with a laugh.
He doesn't need much. Never has. But Purser, who worked in maintenance for Delta Airlines for 30 years, has seen the little security he might have had -- his retirement money, for example, and his home's value -- fall apart in recent years. And he just doesn't understand why some fancy executive should earn millions. His own daddy made $12 a week building roads for the Work Projects Administration during the Great Depression.
"Our country was a hell of a lot worse off then, and we came together, and we did something," he said. "I'm not that smart. I don't know the dollars and cents. But I'm just looking for something different."

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