An apparent rift between state Tea Party activists played out at separate rallies on Sunday afternoon in Worcester and in Boston, days after some leaders of the movement urged supporters to skip the Boston event.
Ken Mandile, cofounder of the Worcester Tea Party, said during the Tax Day Rally at Lincoln Square in Worcester on Sunday that the Mass Tea Party Coalition - which held a Patriots Day Rally that started an hour earlier on Boston Common - is diverting attention from the core mission of the grass-roots movement for a smaller federal government.
“They’re including some social issues that we avoid,’’ said Mandile. “We stay focused on fiscal responsibility, limited government, and promoting free markets.’’
Last week in a statement, the Greater Boston Tea Party appealed to members not to attend the event on the Common. The statement said the Mass Tea Party Coalition appears to focus mainly on social issues, including opposition to gay marriage and abortion.
“We want to grow our numbers, not exclude people,’’ Christine Morabito, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party, said in Worcester Sunday.
Bridget Fay, an organizer of the rally on the Common, said the Greater Boston group is wrong to completely separate social and fiscal issues.
“Often, social liberalism is quite expensive,’’ Fay said.
She described the coalition’s approach to activism as “more of an all-of-the-above’’ strategy welcoming social and fiscal conservatives. Fay hedged when asked if she thought the coalition could work with the Greater Boston group to pursue shared political goals.
“It depends on whether or not they want to,’’ she said.
The speakers at the Boston rally did touch on social issues, but they also addressed such hot-button policy items as the national health overhaul passed in 2010 that is currently the subject of a landmark US Supreme Court case.
Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, the keynote speaker in Boston, decried the law during his remarks.
“Obamacare means the government has the right to control everything,’’ he told the crowd, which included many participants who carried signs with slogans such as “Freedom Not Socialism.’’
The Tea Party rally on Boston Common was at times interrupted by a small group of counterdemonstrators who were upset that organizers invited speakers opposed to gay rights, including the Rev. Scott Lively, a Springfield pastor and outspoken critic of homosexuality.
Before Lively spoke, protesters attempted to disrupt the rally by rushing the bandstand area. Boston police said three people were arrested. Others attempted to shout down speakers by chanting “homophobia has got to go’’ and “Jesus loves me, too.’’
Lively spoke to the rally when he said, “This is the work of God.’’
The Worcester rally also had its share of drama, albeit choreographed.
It kicked off with a symbolic gesture, as five men in black robes, each wearing the name of a Supreme Court justice, hoisted a wooden coffin over their heads and marched through the crowd, following a man playing mournful music on a horn. “Obamacare’’ was spelled out in black letters on the coffin.
At the intersection of Highland and Lincoln streets, a dozen people were on the sidewalk holding signs and waving to cars. A woman held a sign that said “Fiscal Responsibility.’’ One man held a fluorescent yellow sign that said “Socialism Stinks.’’ Another man held a sign that said “Control Your Spending, Not My Wallet.’’
Speakers in Worcester included Josh Archambault, director of health care policy for the Pioneer Institute, a policy institute in Boston; and Mary-Alice Perdichizzi, a student at Brandeis University and a founder of a campus Tea Party group.
Perdichizzi told the crowd about the political discussions she has with fellow Brandeis students. On campus, she said, “apathy is more rampant than socialism, and liberalism is the default position.’’
She also said the Tea Party movement can attract more young supporters.
“Our ideas are fresh and new,’’ Perdichizzi said. “The youth vote is there, and we have the opportunity to take it.’’
Globe correspondent Derek J. Anderson contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@ globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Emily Sweeney be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.