By James Noonan, Napa Valley Register. August 22, 2011.
The so-called "super rally" planned for the Tea Party Express' launch in Napa this Saturday has local law enforcement beefing up staffing to handle large crowds and counter-protests.
Recent conversations with both the local tea party branch and Tea Party Express' Sacramento office suggested that the Napa Valley Expo event would draw a crowd of about 5,000 people, said Capt. Steve Potter with the Napa Police Department.
The event will likely draw attendance from across Northern California, with some regional tea party groups - such as the Sutter Buttes Tea Party, the East Bay Tea Party and others - organizing charter buses or caravans to shuttle members to the Napa rally, according to the groups' websites.
With details of the event still evolving, Potter said that the department's planned response was changing on a near-daily basis.
"Right now, it's very hard to predict how many people they expect to have," he said.
Capt. Tracey Stuart of the Napa County Sheriff's Office said that Napa police had taken the lead on staffing the Tea Party Express event, and that there was no additional security expected from her department.
In addition to the main rally, police are planning for multiple anti-tea party rallies outside the Napa Valley Exposition, Potter said. "We have no idea what to expect in terms of counter-rallies," he said.
At least one group - the Napa County Green Party - has announced formal plans to protest the tea party's presence in Napa. The Green Party will host a demonstration at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Napa.
Traffic is also expected to be a major concern this weekend, with Potter saying there would likely be a "significant impact" in the city's downtown area, as well as sections of Silverado Trail and Soscol Avenue.
Pam Silleman, head of the Napa Tea Party, said that her organization was unable to reserve a block of hotel rooms for guests of the Napa rally, but said that groups from outside the area were having little trouble finding lodging.
Calls Monday to several hotels in downtown Napa suggested that most will be operating at or near capacity this weekend.
In addition to the crowds drawn by the Tea Party Express event, Napa's streets will likely be flooded with those attending the Napa Downtown Association's "Blues, Brews & BBQ" festival on Saturday.
The Napa rally marks the first stop in the Tea Party Express' coast-to-coast "Reclaiming America" tour. The tour is slated to end in Tampa, Fla. on Sept. 12, when CNN and the Tea Party Express will co-sponsor the "Tea Party Debate" for GOP presidential candidates.
Founded by two former GOP consultants, the Tea Party Express bus tour is a project of the "Our County Deserves Better" political action committee.
This month's outing will be the project's fifth national bus tour.
Silleman will be sitting on the panel for the national debate, and has said that some of the GOP candidates will be present during the Napa rally.
"That's the whole focus of this," Silleman said.
Silleman has opted not to identify the candidates who may be coming to Napa, saying it would be up to their individual campaigns to announce any appearances.
The rally is expected to run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The Tea Party Express buses are set to arrive at the Expo at 11 a.m. and leave Napa at 1 p.m.