Tea Party floods capitol square, with message to both parties
Members of various groups affiliated with the so-called Tea Party movement are making a show of strength in Richmond today, rallying more than 1,000 demonstrators for a Capitol Square protest and then flooding the General Assembly building to meet with lawmakers.
The Martin Luther King Day holiday is traditionally considered Lobby Day in Richmond, with dozens of groups taking advantage of the day off from work to send members to the capital city. But the tea party group appeared to the be largest in recent memory.
Wearing "Don't Tread on Me" stickers and holding signs calling for states rights, a reacknowledgement of the 10th amendment of the constitution, limited taxes, lower government spending and--above all--a rejection of the federal health care bill, the group listened to almost two hours worth of speakers, including rousing addresses from Virginia's new attorney general Ken Cuccinelli and Del. Bob Marshall.
"The Revolution has begun!" said Marshall, as he took the microphone. He praised the rallyers as "sentinels on the tree of liberty."
"This Obama-care is not only a fight over health insurance. It's not even a fight over payback to political help," he said. "This is a fight for--are you a citizen or are you a serf? It's not your wallet that they want, it's your soul and your family."
"It's time for people like you all to step up and to draw the lines that our Founding Fathers thought they drew very clearly," said Cuccinelli, who took part 48 hours after being sworn in as the state's top lawyer. On his lapel, in place of a Virginia flag pin, Cuccinelli wore a "Don't Tread on Me" pin. "We need to reemphasize that there our sovereigns in America. One of those in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
One woman held a dead fish and a sign calling for the end to Chicago-style politics in Washington. Another held a sign aloft that said, "Obama, can you hear us now?" The master of ceremonies dressed in period costume as Patrick Henry and performed a reenactment of Henry's famous speech of the Revolution, leading the whole crowd in a hearty shout of "Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!" to conclude. They wore stickers calling on the General Assembly to pass two bills, one declaring an individual health care mandate illegal in Virginia and another establishing that a gun manufactured and sold in Virginia is not subject to federal regulation under the commerce clause of the U.S. constitution.
All of the elected officials who addressed the group were Republicans. But several tea party members made clear that they do not believe their movement is tied to party--they will throw out the Republican bums just as quickly as the Democratic ones.
"The Republican Party has not been satisfying the people in this group," said Richmond lawyer and former state party chairman Pat McSweeney, who helped organize the event. "The fight will be whether the Republican party will open itself to this opposition movement."
January 18, 2010; 2:03 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate
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