INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Thousands of people streamed into Holman Stadium in the hour leading up to the noon Tea Party Day of Awareness rally at the old Dodgertown complex, many carrying signs and placards and waving American flags, ready to renew their commitment to changing the way Washington, D.C., does business.
“Liar! Liar! Our flag’s on fire!” read one sign a Tea Party supporter held. “The Pelosi has hit the fan,” read another. “We will not sit down and shut up! But we will vote,” another sign said.
Director Jeff Luther of the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office estimated the crowd, which filled most of the available seats and lined the walkways, to be about 4,500 strong. “They were well behaved and there were not any problems,” he said.
Many were dressed in red, including one woman – a self-proclaimed “poster girl” of the Tea Party, Judy Van Saun, who donned a red hat and dangled tea bags from the wide brim.
Others stuck small American flags behind their ears and wore flag-inspired T-shirts.
They all came to hear speakers denounce the current administration’s spending, the recent passage of the health care reform bill and the coming wave of taxes.
Keynote speaker, Bill Friesell, former CEO of Citicorp Diner’s Club, filled in for US Senate candidate Marco Rubio, was the last to take the stage and urged the crowd to speak up and make their voices heard.
Repeatedly, he cried out to the audience: “Can you hear us now?”
“They’ll hear us in November,” a man in the audience shouted out in response, drawing cheers and applause.
Throughout the 80-minute long event, individuals in the audience could be heard shouting in response to the speakers’ comments.
“Tell Obama to pay for it!” one man shouted after Friesell said the country is taking on unprecedented amounts of debt.
“It’s immoral,” Friesell said of the mounting debt.
“Evil!” a woman shouted.
One speaker, John Moore III, urged the audience to not play into the hands of the media or certain members of Congress who categorize the Tea Party as fringe, extremists, and rabble-rousers.
“Say what you mean, mean what you say and don’t say it mean,” Moore said.
He told the crowd that they have the power to make change in this country – at the ballot box come November.
“Let our government know it’s on the wrong path,” he said, adding that they need to vote those in who will work to repeal the health care reform bill and create an alternative that leaves the decisions up to the individual members of the public.
“Our voices are growing louder and clearer,” Friesell said near the end of the event. “We will be heard. You will hear from us in November.”
Just as Friesell took to the stage to address the audience, storm clouds began to roll in, threatening to rain out the rally. The rain held off just long enough for Friesell to end his speech and most people make it back to their vehicles.
Traffic surrounding Historic Dodgertown before and after the event came to a crawl in the areas of 43rd Avenue and 26th Street. Cars were backed up along 26th Street to U.S. 1, and around the corner at 43rd Avenue.
Traffic has since cleared in the area of Historic Dodgertown as those in the audience returned home or back to work after the lunchtime rally.