Tea Party Express roars into region (with photo gallery)
ALBANY Socialism worries Dave Conrad, a retired city of Amsterdam firefighter.
It worries him so much he has started attending tea party rallies to display a special sign he had made: “When justice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.”
Conrad, 59, of Fort Johnson, was among more than 200 people who attended Tuesday’s Tea Party Express III rally in Albany. The express has traveled the country since March 27, seeking to rally people against government bailouts, deficit spending, government takeovers of sectors of the economy, government-run health care and higher taxes, according to its Web site. The express ends its tour Thursday in Washington, D.C.
The crowd listened to messages that praised the military and the U.S. Constitution and knocked politicians. It contained a large number of Catholics and veterans, determined by a show of hands when prompted by rally organizers.
Special guest Andrea Shea King, known as the “Radio Patriot,” likened the tea party movement to a war. “We are in a battle for our country. We will advance until we take over or take back America” from secularism, anti-capitalism, profligate spending and over-reaching government, she said.
Tea Party Express Chairman Mark Williams called the tea party a “human rights movement” focused on retaining freedoms expressed in the U.S. Constitution. Amy Kramer of Grassroots and Coalitions for the Tea Party, said the tea party’s message — focused on fiscal, not social issues — resonates with people of all political persuasions.
This was Conrad’s third rally. By attending them, he said he is exercising his First Amendment Right; he also supports gun ownership rights and will be in Washington, D.C., April 19 for the Second Amendment March. He calls himself a Libertarian, although he is an enrolled Republican.
“I don’t like the direction the country is moving. I am afraid they are taking away our freedoms,” Conrad said.
Conrad is especially upset with federal legislation to revamp health insurance — this is the law to which the sign refers. He said his sign does not advocate armed rebellion but a rebellion involving people coming together to voice opinions. “I like this [event]. It is good for people to come out and show their concerns,” he said.
Other participants also brought along homemade signs, featuring messages such as “How will I pay for this?” “We are not your ATM.” Some wore buttons with President Barack Obama’s last name spelled out as: “One Big Ass Mistake America.” One woman wore a button that said, “Pro-Guns, Pro-God, Pro-Country.”
Many carried the Gadsden flag. The flag features a coiled black snake poised to strike and the words, “Don’t tread on me,” on a yellow background. Others carried an American flag with the number 11 on a blue field surrounded by stars.
Vendors sold T-shirts with pro-gun and anti-Liberal messages; other sold buttons featuring Sarah Palin. Vendor Ed Williams of Reno, Nev., said he volunteers his time to sell the T-shirts. “I have been with the express since the beginning. I am doing it to make a different,” he said.
Another vendor, Mark Miller of Cleveland, Ohio, has traveled with the express since April 6, selling Gadsden flags to people at rallies. He is not part of the express’ entourage, more of a free-lancer who uses proceeds to pay for food and gas to the next event. “I have a regular job, but I am taking a few weeks off to follow the tour,” he said.
Miller said he is not a tea party advocate, although he believes something needs to be done to help the country. “I listen to what they say. We have lost control of the government,” he said.
During his time on the road with the express, he said he has learned “people are pissed, but they are not sure why they are pissed. They want their voices to be heard.”
Robert Fitzgerald traveled to Albany from Orange County, 90 minutes away, to be heard. He brought along his three daughters, Samantha, 8, Katie, 8, and Alexandra, 10. The girls each carried an American flag.
Fitzgerald took his three girls out of school for the day “to teach them a lesson.” The lesson: “You can’t let government take over too much of your life. Government is around to help you, not entitle you,” he said.
Tea Party Express organizers brought one of the girls to the front of the rally to hold the American flag while the audience sang a song.
The rally attracted a counter-protest by members of MoveOn.org. They carried pro-Obama signs. John Thomas Allen of Albany said MoveOn believes the tea party is anti-Democratic and anti-poor. “They are a threat with their attacks on people,” he said.
Allen said the media gives the group a free pass “because they wave American flags.”
Williams said the media has demonized them. “We are a group of people. We are not racists and we are not radicals. We want to take back the [political] parties so they work for the people,” he said.