It's been almost a year since Tea Baggers held an anti-Obama rally in the Michael's Italian Beef parking lot. Time for a reunion! With the president coming into town this evening, the radical fringe was out in full force in the sausage mart's lot this afternoon.
The inside of Michael's Italian Beef was almost as crazy as outside—the place was packed with people trying to juggle giant protest signs and giant Italian meatball subs.
Sausagemaker in Chief Michael Zokoych was in the back, washing dishes and dressing down a worker when I came in. "Yes sir, yes sir," the employee repeated while pulling on dishwashing gloves. Michael is a hardy guy, he moved to Portland from Chicago 40 years ago and has been running his Italian meat shop for the past 35 years.
"Portland politics are becoming more like Chicago's every day," he said, taking a break from the dishes. "More and more aligned with government takeover." Michael's involved in local politics as a director of the Central Eastside Industrial Council—in his window hangs a Tom Hughes for Metro President sign and he says he would allow any political group to host an event in his lot. Rallies are a great way to meet new customers.
"It's important to protect the free business enterprise in America. That's what America is all about," says Michael. And his thoughts on Obama coming to town? "I have no connection to that man's politics, I'm not a socialist."
As we talked, who should walk in the door but Tom Hughes himself. Michael shook his hand and Hughes explained to me that he wasn't here for the Tea Party rally, just to get lunch. "It's amazing to me, all this anger," says Hughes. "I listened to hear solutions, but all I heard is anger."
Photos of the rally below the cut!