States’ rights protesters rally for change at Capitol

January 20, 2010

By Mike Ward

(Editor’s Note: This event happened over the January 15th weekend.)

Al Hays said he was a longtime Republican Party precinct chair in the Houston area, cheerleading for Gov. Rick Perry and the state’s GOP leadership.

No more.

On Saturday, Hays drove to Austin to join more than 600 fellow Texans at a grass-roots State’s Rights Rally on the Capitol grounds that roused more than two hours of cheering as speaker after speaker charged up a take-back-our-country agenda.

“We stand on the cusp of a new era,” said George Scaggs, director of NewRevolutionNow, a group demanding that the Legislature pass a so-called nullification resolution to block the federal government from enacting President Barack Obama’s health care initiative and other unfunded — and what they say are unconstitutional — federal mandates.

“This is a fledgling revolution, that’s what it is.”

Added Austin resident Peggy Venable, Texas director of Americans for Prosperity, “We’re mad as hell at the direction of government and we’re willing to fight to change it.”

Businessman Adrian Murray, president of the Fort Worth 912 Project, another take-back-your-government group, said the federal government is violating the Constitution “and should be viewed as a hostile power … a clear and present danger to the people of the United States.”

“The time has come for people to rise up and defeat their anti-American, Marxist agenda,” he said of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress, as the crowd cheered.

A sign in the front of the crowd read: “Oust this regime.”

Raloph Barrera/America Statesman

With rhetoric that was at times reminiscent of Ross Perot’s third-party presidential campaign nearly two decades ago, and sometimes echoed the invective hurled during the states’ rights movement before the Civil War, speaker after speaker served up their harshest criticism of Obama and Congress.

But Perry and his GOP re-election challenger, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, and state lawmakers did not escape the anger. Other signs read: “Vote ‘Em Out,” “Perry: The Next Unemployed Texan,” Hey, Governor. It’s Time To Go!” and “Throw Out Kay Bail Out.”

When state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, started to speak, he was initially drowned out by boos and catcalls. “He is in the system. He works for The Man,” read a large sign waved nearby by a man with a dry-erase board.

“If we were called into a special session — if — I think there’s a good chance the nullification resolution would pass,” Wentworth said after leaving the stage.

Several protestors waved large posters showing Obama in white face paint, his lips colored red \u2013 reminiscent of the Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ with the word “Socialism” beneath. Attorney General Greg Abbott drew cheers when a speaker noted he was poised to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the so-called “Obamacare” bill.

State Reps. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, and Wayne Christian, R-Center, drew cheers with their support of the nullification resolution.

“This usurper in the office of president has been shredding our Constitution,” Berman said. “Washington is dominated by Socialists … Socialists do not believe in God. Their god is the state.”

Texans from as far away as Galveston, Harlingen, Jefferson and Midland, in groups with names such as Waco Tea Party, Houston Patriots, Austin Liberty Coalition and ACT for America, cheered themselves hoarse as they railed against Big Government for state’s rights.

“The Republican Party tried to use us, but we’re onto them now,” said Norman Shugar, 77, who drove in from outside Houston. “I was for Perry. Now, I’m for Medina.”

Some said they planned to vote for Libertarians; others said they would support Perry if he supports nullification — an unlikely possibility.

None of the gubernatorial candidates spoke. Debra Medina, a dark horse GOP challenger, was at the rally and wanted to speak — and tempers flared briefly at the end of the rally when she was not allowed to, as music was turned up to drown out her supporters. State troopers moved in briefly to help cool tensions.

But if the speakers were adamant about what they want, and what they see as wrong with federal and state government, perhaps it was the messages from the colorful display of dozens of historic Independence flags that underscored their passion the best: Come and Get It, Don’t Tread On Me. Liberty Or Death. Plus these more modern adaptations: Texas Independence Now and Secede.; 445-1712

Copyright 2010 America Statesman