Tea Party rolls through Tupelo

By Danza Johnson/Photos by Deste Lee

TUPELO – Tea Party patrons described Saturday’s rally in Fairpark as a monumental day in the Tea Party movement.
The Tea Party Express rolled into Tupelo to a pumped-up crowd of more than 1,500 who voiced the overall theme “Just Vote Them Out.” People from across the nation crowded the lawn at Fairpark in front of City Hall to listen to conservative views from candidates hoping to win Democratic Congressman Travis Childers’ District 1 seat, and from several members of the Tea Party Express.
Childers was unavailable for comment Saturday.
The Tea Party Express is a national bus tour hosting a series of Tea Party rallies all across the nation. It launched from Sen. Harry Reid’s hometown of Searchlight, Nev., on March 27 and will conclude in Washington, D.C., on April 15.
Tupelo Tea Party organizer Grant Sowell was thrilled when the tour buses rolled up in front of City Hall.
“I have a friend with the Express and I asked could they come through Tupelo and here they are,” said Sowell. “Another reason why Tupelo was a good destination for the Tea Party is because they wanted to go to places where candidates were vulnerable and we believe Travis Childers is very vulnerable right now.”
Sowell said the Tea Party movement hopefully will cause changes in offices come November.
“This movement is for the people,” he said. “These people want Nancy Pelosi out and many other congressman and senators need to go too.”
The crowd was pumped up and ready for a rally long before the Tea Party Express buses arrived shortly after 5 p.m. Even though the event was scheduled to start at 4 p.m., people were settling in at Fairpark as early as 2 p.m.
Mary Adams got there so early that the paint on her, “Save America, Vote Them Out” sign was still wet. Adams has attended other Tea Party events, but said Saturday’s was different.
“It’s just a good feeling today,” Adams said. “I feel like we’ve been doing this alone and reinforcements have just arrived. To see people from all over the country come into our little town to share in our cause is a good feeling. I feel like we are moving forward and now the people who were on the fence have fallen on our side.”
Sharon Beard and her husband Mitchell made the trip from Tampa, Fla., to meet the Tea Party Express in Tupelo. Beard said they hit the road in their RV on Thursday morning.
“This is something we really felt passionate about, so we decided to just gas up and get here,” she said. “We feel overtaxed, overworked and over-regulated, so we decided to join people who felt the same way.”
Tupelo residents James and Rachel Lewis said they’ve been waiting for the Express to come through ever since it began in Nevada.
“This is bigger than just Tupelo coming together,” said James Lewis. “This feels like America uniting right here in our little town. A lot of these people we see on Fox News and hear on the radio saying the same things we feel are here in Tupelo today. It’s good to be able to see and hear them say it in person.”
Among the Tea Party Express crew were Willie and Selena Owens from Nevada. Willie Owens is an author, publisher and Tea Party activist. He also streams live Tea Party action over the Internet on www.teapartyexpress.tv. Owens, who is black, said the politicians have tried to turn the issues into a race debate, but he said that is not the case.
“I’m here from the perspective of an American,” said Owens. “There is an attempt to put the movement into sets and it is not about that. We are just concerned Americans and it has nothing to do with color. Taxes are the color green because they take our money, and health care takes our freedom. So race is not the issue. The things being done wrong is the issue.”
Mark Williams, chairman of the Tea Party Express, said the Tea Party is all about a movement back to tradition.
“This is a movement based on our constitution,” he said. “The Tea Party wants to return the country to its roots.”
Several local candidates spoke to the crowd briefly, but the day was mostly about the visitors who rolled in on the big tour buses.
“We really appreciate all these people coming to Tupelo,” said resident Grace Anderson. “We are a part of something so much bigger than just us and today seeing the Express come through really brought it home for me.”
The Tea Party Express will be in Huntsville, Ala., and Nashville today.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

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