Last Saturday, in anticipation of the Fourth of July celebrations, the Macon County Freedom Coalition, including FreedomWorks, the Macon County Republican Party and the Mountain Patriots TEA Party, presented “Freedom on the Square” at the gazebo in downtown Franklin.
The event attracted conservative-minded folks from around the county and the region who gathered under a relentless sun for a program of patriotic music and speeches promoting conservative issues and frequently highlighting a conservative perspective on history.
The noontime sun was so hot that many of the crowd of 100- 150 people, mostly of retirement age, could be found behind the gazebo stage huddled in the narrow sliver of shade afforded by the storefront facade on the square. The more hardy attendees, however, camped in front of the stage with their portable camp chairs, red, white and blue umbrellas, and sunscreen.
Hand-drawn placards proclaimed, “Defend Freedom,” “God Bless America” and other similar sentiments. The slogan “NoBama 2012” was seen on more than one t-shirt. Many in the colorful crowd sported flag-themed shirts similar to the one that in the 1960s brought political activist Abbie Hoffman before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Among the notable speakers at the event were Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin) and 2010 Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, Dan Eichenbaum, as well as local businessmen Phil Drake of Drake Enterprises and Bill Fuchs of Wilderness Taxidermy and Outfitters. Becki Grey, Vice-President for Outreach of the conservative think-tank, the John Locke Foundation, also addressed the crowd.
Local officials who attended the event included Sheriff Robert Holland and County Commissioner Kevin Corbin.
“We are here today to celebrate the basic ideas of freedom and independence,” said Chris Murray, chairman of the Macon County chapter of the Republican Party which had a booth set up for the event.
In his remarks, Sen. Davis spoke of North Carolina’s early activism in the American Revolutionary War, including a skirmish between patriot militia and British loyalists at Moore’s Creek Bridge near Wilmington in 1776, as well as the state’s subsequent influence on other colonies in declaring their independence from Great Britain.
Quoting from the Declaration of Independence, Davis suggested that the basic rights of American citizens are once more being violated by government – this time by our own. “Sometimes our government is going to violate our rights, and our inclination to begin with is not to fight back,” Davis told to the crowd. “But I would suggest to you that because of what’s going on in our country today, it is long past time to fight back.”
To demonstrate his point, Davis went on to list numerous actions by recent administrations, including the recent bailouts of the financial and automotive industries. “We are seeing our government take over business – G.M., AIG and Chrysler – which, for those who understand history, this is called nationalism. Nationalism is prevalent in our world today, much like what dictator Hugo Chavez is doing in Venezuela ... It's the same thing that the Nazis did in Germany and that the Soviets did in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” Davis said.
The $85 billion bailout of the American International Group (AIG) under the Bush administration in 2008 was the largest government bailout of a private company in U.S. history. The subsequent bailouts of the automotive industry giants General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in 2009 happened under the Obama administration.
Hal Chapman, a former American history professor, was the master of ceremonies for the day. Chapman also spoke of the role that North Carolina played in the fight for American independence, including a little known act of defiance in Edenton, N.C., where Penelope Barker and 50 other women signed a petition in support of their husbands and organized to stop drinking English tea and buying English clothes, an act which Chapman called North Carolina’s “Tea Party.”