Tea Party Rally held at historic City Hall

Published 11:04 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The signs and the lips read no new taxes. Such was the sentiment of the local protesters during the Tea Party Really held yesterday.

Overspilling from the lawn of the old Picayune City Hall in a sea of red, white and blue, rally goers gathered in large numbers to air their grievances with the direction in which they believe the country is going and to let politicians know that they are ready to “take America back.” They carried signs and dumped tea bags into large tubs of water. The “tea” in Tea Party is an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already.”

Valerie Russell, founder of the Pearl River Patriots — the organizing force behind the local rally — opened the event by addressing the crowd. She said that they were there to send a message to politicians, loud and clear, “We’re tired of how you’re spending our money … We demand accountability and want to be heard.” She said that with a collective voice, this message could be carried all the way to Washington.

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The peaceful gathering continued with an invocation by Pastor Jeremy Wilson, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of “God Bless America,” both of which were led by 5-year-old Carson Lajaunie.

Also on hand to address the gathering was state Rep. Mark Formby. Formby’s brief speech touched on the history of the Boston Tea Party of 1773. The moral being that a group of youths led a rebellion against the taxes posed by King George, who was not an elected official and therefore had no accountability, to send a message.

“They were screaming, no taxation without representation,” he said. “The difference is today you have representation. What you need to do is hold your elected officials accountable.”

Formby continued, “What I urge you to do today is get fired up, but what I really urge you to do is go the polls and vote for representation without taxation.”

Eric Normand, another leader within the Pearl River Patriots group, ran down a quick list of several other grievances which were backed up with cheers by the crowd. Pork barrel projects, illegal aliens and not wanting the government to control of health care were just some of his concerns along with the $790 billion tax bill. Term limits for politicians and judges also seemed to an area of concern among the crowd.

During Normand’s speech, several personal comments were interjected from individuals in the crowd. Despite the motto of the Pearl River Patriots, “We are not republicans. Not democrats. We are Americans!” it quickly became clear that some in attendance where disgruntled by the Obama Administration in particular. Normand countered by saying that even the Bush administration, which he initially supported, had made some mistakes. “Looks like we can’t trust any of them anymore,” he said.

He concluded by saying, “We should be proud to be Americans and get rid of politicians who aren’t.”

The Picayune rally was part of a national movement, with tea parties planned for some 2,000 plus cities at different times throughout Wednesday, which was April 15, the deadline for filing income tax returns. The original idea was said to have been started by a group in Chicago and with the help of Internet forums began to spread.

Organizers of the local event were impressed with the turnout. “We are so excited,” said Pearl River Patriot Jet Clogher. “You start off, like others said, two and half, three weeks ago, you felt like nobody else felt the way you did and to see it come together like this is just so exciting … and this is just the beginning.” Clogher said the rally is not the end and the group plans to use the momentum from the rally and keep the movement going.